The Natural

Perhaps it was fate after all. A familiar surname will be in the offensive arsenal of weapons for the Washington Huskies this coming season. After a one-year absence, the proud name Tuiasosopo will once again be associated with the tradition-rich Husky backfield.

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With the switch of sophomore Zach Tuiasosopo from linebacker to fullback, the early results from spring practices show tons of potential and anticipation for the fall.

With the graduation of starting fullback Ken Walker, the Husky coaching brain trust approached Tuiasosopo with the idea of a position change. He had one season under his belt at the "Rush End Backer" position, and looked to be making a name for himself with his active and sometimes fanatical play. For that reason, he was a bit hesitant at first, as was his father, Manu, the former Seattle Seahawk and UCLA Bruin star defensive lineman.

Once Zach got his feet wet, he and the family soon welcomed the change and the opportunities it presented. He now is having a blast on offense.

In a sense, the position switch isn't much of a switch at all for Tuiasosopo. Since being recruited out of Woodinville HS, he has delivered his fair share of big hits. He'll still be doing a lot of hitting but he'll be protecting the ball and clearing paths for ball carriers instead of attacking them.

Tuiasosopo rushed for over a 1,000 yards as Woodinville's starting fullback his senior year so the position isn't entirely a new concept. The Pac-10 is a far cry from prep football and the transition is no cakewalk, but fullback is a crucial element in Keith Gilbertson's offense and it hasn't been the same since Pat Conniff, another Woodinville High alum, graduated.

Enter Zach Tuiasosopo.

"In my mind it's still the same game with the same players, " said Tuiasosopo of the switch to offense.

"I'm excited to be a part of Gilby's (Offensive Coordinator Keith Gilbertson) schemes."

The progress Tuiasosopo has been making in the spring has been nothing short of amazing. He has already rocketed to the top of the depth chart and will likely be the starter against Michigan as the season kicks off just around the corner. A big question about whether or not he could catch the ball is being answered this spring, as Tuiasosopo has made several tough grabs coming out of the backfield.

"He just seems to be a natural at the position. Like a duck to water," noted new running backs coach Chuck Heater. "He is definitely making good progress." Heater went as far as labeling Tuiasosopo a "triple-threat" fullback (running, blocking, receiving) in the mold of Conniff.

What kind of plays the coaching staff to utilize his talents remains to be seen. Seeing a Tuiasosopo slamming the middle of the line with the ball or seeing a Tuiasosopo getting a lead block to spring a long gain will surely be a welcome sight for Husky fans. With a fullback that must be respected on the dive play up the middle, the option becomes a dangerous package once again.

"If it's in the playbook, then I have no problem trying it out," Tuiasosopo said with a grin.

Standing 6'2" and tipping the scales at a solid 235 pounds, he benches just under 400 pounds and clocks just over a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash. It's an intriguing mix of athleticism and power that could be a very exciting package in the fullback slot. Tuiasosopo not only looks to carry on the proud Husky legacy of the family, he also looks forward to making a name for himself. The way he's looked this spring, it shouldn't be a problem. One of his best moments so far came during an 11-on-11 drill where a pitch to Alexis looked like it was headed for disaster. Suddenly from his fullback spot, #5 came flying out and obliterated LB Tyler Krambrink, springing Alexis around the corner for a huge gain. Heater jumped up and screamed at Zach in jubilation, as did the entire offensive sideline.

Heater hopes that it is a foreboding of things to come this fall. "He's capable of doing a lot of things for us."

His older brother still casts a very long shadow at Washington, but Zach doesn't mind or back down to the challenge of getting out of it. "I would definitely say I'm his 'younger' brother and not his 'little' brother," said Zach with a big smile on his face.

"And you can print that."

Consider it done, Zach.
Henry Han is a UW Journalism major serving an internship at Sports Washington Magazine and Dawgman.com.

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