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Ilaisa Tuiaki (pronounced E-lye-sa Too-ee-ah-kee) is in his third season as Utah State's running backs coach, and took over the Aggies' tight ends in January, 2012. Tuiaki will also work with Matt Wells as USU's recruiting coordinators.
Tuiaki followed Gary Andersen to Utah State from Utah, where he was a graduate assistant for the Utes' defense, coaching the strong side linebackers. When he joined the USU staff in 2009, he shifted back to the offensive side of the ball, coaching USU's running backs as well as assisting with special teams.
Tuiaki mentored second-team all-WAC running back Robert Turbin's school-record single-season 18 total TD's and 110 total points in 2009, on the way to his 1,296 rushing yards to become the first Aggie running back to reach the 1,000-yard plateau since 2001. Tuiaki has also played a vital role in the continued progress in Turbin and Michael Smith.
Both Smith and Turbin were injured in 2010, and Tuiaki coached Derrvin Speight, who led the team in rushing and ranked seventh in the WAC and 85th in FBS in rushing with 64.9 ypg. Kerwynn Williams also rushed for 451 yards on the season, including a career-best and USU season-high 147 yards at Boise State.
"Ilaisa played for me at Southern Utah, and I've been impressed with him as a player and a coach ever since," Andersen said. "He's a young, passionate coach that puts the players first, and he does great things with our young, talented running backs here at Utah State, as well as working on special teams. His recruiting skills are also a big asset for us. He has done a great job recruiting Polynesian players, as well as Utah players, helping us continue to expand on the number of Utah and Polynesian players in our program."
Tuiaki played for Andersen at Southern Utah as a running back and is excited to continue to be part of his staff.
"I'm really excited to be part of Gary Andersen's staff. I'm extremely honored that he has the faith in me, and I know what's expected of me," Tuiaki said. "I'm flattered that Coach Andersen selected me to be Utah State's running backs coach. Utah State has a lot of talent at running back. I'm also excited about being able to help recruit Polynesian players to Cache Valley and Utah State. The area and campus are great places."
Tuiaki spent one year as graduate assistant coach at Utah, where he worked with the strong side linebackers on defense, assisting defensive coordinator Andersen.
At Utah in 2008, Tuiaki coached second-team all-Mountain West honoree junior linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, as well as honorable mention selection junior linebacker Mike Wright. Tuiaki also helped guide the Utes to a 13-0 record in 2008 as they finished the season ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll after winning the BCS Sugar Bowl with a dominating 31-17 victory against Alabama.
Tuiaki also played for Andersen at Southern Utah in 2003, as he was a running back for the Thunderbirds for two seasons, joining SUU after two years at Snow JC. While at Southern Utah, Tuiaki scored two rushing TD's, as well as three receiving TD's in addition to serving as team captain. One of his TD catches was the game-winner in Southern Utah's 19-15 upset of No. 25 UC Davis for SUU's first Great West Football Conference win. Off the field, Tuiaki was an academic all-conference selection as well as a two-time winner of a Utah Coalition for the Advancement of Minorities in Higher Education (UCAHME) scholarship. Additionally, Tuiaki played rugby at SUU and was his club team's captain.
Tuiaki began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Kearns High School, where he coached the wide receivers and outside linebackers in 2006 and was the offensive coordinator in 2007. He also taught sophomore English at Kearns for those two years.
A 2006 graduate of Southern Utah, Tuiaki earned a double-major degree in English and physical education. Tuiaki currently is finishing a master's degree in education policy and leadership at Utah.
A native of Provo, Utah, Tuiaki is married to the former Viola Wolfgramm and they have five children, sons Laveatu'u and Lolo, and daughters Uini, Leisinia and Heilala.