The “Intellectual Brutality” offense is here to stay at Rice, but it will now be directed under a new frontman.
Rice introduced Marques Tuiasosopo as its offensive coordinator Tuesday to fill the vacancy created by Jerry Mack, who departed the same role for a position as Tennessee’s running backs coach in February. Tuiasosopo spent the past 12 seasons as an assistant on four different Pac-12 staffs, most recently specializing as the tight ends coach at California.
“I can’t express how excited I am to be a part of this program,” Tuiasosopo said at his opening press conference. “When Coach Bloomgren gave me the call and presented the opportunity, it was an easy decision for my family. There was a football side of it, the Xs and Os, but ultimately, it was about the people.”
Prior to Tuiasosopo’s Pac-12 ventures, he was an 8-year NFL quarterback for the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets. He started two games and threw 90 passes at the professional level before concluding his career after the 2008 season. In 2007, Tuiasosopo first crossed paths with Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren, who served as the Jets offensive quality control coach during the quarterback’s stint in New York.
“I don’t know if very many people know much about that position in the NFL, but you get worked,” Tuiasosopo said. “As a player you recognize that work because Bloom was the guy sending us the gameplans on Monday and Tuesday night. As a player, you notice that and you appreciate that hard work. So that’s where we started off.”
Bloomgren said a mutual acquaintance reached out to him about Tuiasosopo’s desire to be a coordinator following Mack’s departure to Tennessee. Wanting somebody who could plan the passing game and build the quarterback room, Bloomgren figured his former quarterback was the perfect man for the job.
“I got to see him as a player. I got to see the meticulous notes he would take, the way he prepared, and the energy he brought every day, and I fell in love with him,” Bloomgren said, recalling their Jets days. “It was really cool to get him over here and have a conversation over a meal. Then we started talking football, and you look up, and it’s been six and a half hours. It was just amazing how like-minded we were and how we see the game.”
It’s a significant change of scenery for Tuiasosopo. Save for his 2007 stint with the Jets, every year since his freshman year at Washington in 1997 has been spent on the West Coast. After coaching stops at his alma mater, USC, UCLA, and California, Tuiasosopo is moving away from the Pacific Ocean and into new waters in the C-USA.
“Why Rice for me? I think it goes back to the people involved,” Tuiasosopo said. “I’ve been looking for an opportunity to expand my responsibility and role. This role was the opportunity I was looking for, but more importantly, it had to be a place where I believed in the head coach and the direction of this program. Whether it was on the West Coast, in the South, in the Northeast — it wouldn’t have mattered where it was when Coach Bloomgren called.”
Despite a change in leadership, Rice expects to maintain its signature “pound the rock, control the clock” pro-style offense. In an era where spread and air raid designs define most programs’ offenses, Rice’s old-school style presents a unique look for opposing defenses, and Tuiasosopo is ready to perfect that scheme.
“I fell in love with that part of this offense and opportunity,” Tuiasosopo said. “We’re gonna run the ball, and we all know if you want to win championships you have to run the ball, control the tempo, and the clock. Just my upbringing, (Bloomgren and I) have similar upbringings and backgrounds. I’ve been taught by some great coaches — David Shaw, Jim Harbaugh, Norv Turner — all those guys, I’ve taken something from them each stop of the way.”
The diversity in Tuiasosopo’s background — serving as a quarterbacks coach and tight ends coach in previous stops — will assist him into his transition as a full-time offensive coordinator. After working with a revamped pro-style offense under Bill Musgrave at California last fall, adapting to Rice’s style should be a smooth transition for the veteran assistant coach.
“It made the transition (to Rice) real easy,” Tuiasosopo said of his most recent position at Cal. “Being able to come here and talk with Coach Bloomgren about the direction of this offense, it was almost like lockstep. Being able to step in here and talk about run game, and how we’re gonna relate it to play-action pass game and dropback game, it made that transition seamless.”
Spring football is entering full swing, so Tuiasosopo will have an entire offseason to prepare Rice’s offense for its 2021 campaign, which will be the fourth year under Bloomgren. The Owls kick off on the road Sept. 4 in a clash against former Southwest Conference rival Arkansas.