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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Texas A&M: Misi Tupe

pdated 10:28 AM on Saturday, October 21, 2006

Junior college transfer Tupe is a big hit at linebacker
Gameday Preview Edition: All articles | Big 12 Scoreboard

A&M players knew how good Misi Tupe would be, because they had the bumps and bruises to prove it.

Tupe, a junior college transfer from Dixie State College (Utah), has helped put bite into A&M's new 4-2-5 defensive alignment and disrupting offenses.

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Eagle Photo/Butch Ireland
Misi Tupe had 11 tackles last week against Missouri.

The 5-foot-10, 250-pound Tupe has such a knack for finding the football and disrupting offenses, he's earned a nickname: "Misi the Missile." Though Tupe's only played seven games, defensive coordinator Gary Darnell says the moniker is appropriate.

"If you are on our defense, be careful being the first one to the ball if he's not there yet," Darnell said with a smile. "Because when he shows up, something is fixin' to happen."

Tupe is coming off his best effort - 11 tackles in a 25-19 victory over Missouri.

"He gets after it hard," Darnell said. "He only missed one tackle last week. Sometimes I think he'll go airborne and launch when he misses because he's going so hard and so fast."

Tupe's teammates were the first to feel his impact.

He was the only guy to tackle a running back for a loss in the one-on-one Aggie drill, said head coach Dennis Franchione.

Internet reports of offensive linemen Kirk Elder being knocked out by Tupe are not true, Darnell said. But Tupe did hit wide receiver Chad Schroeder hard enough to make Schroeder woozy, and several others have felt his wallop.

"That's why I wear an elbow sleeve," said senior strong safety Melvin Bullitt said. "He's usually on my left side. One day in practice he came up after I wrapped somebody and put a bruise on my elbow.

"I can't get mad at him. I just kinda slap him on the head a little bit and tell him to be careful. I don't mind it as long as he gets there fast."

The mild-mannered Tupe shyly smiles when talking about the vicious hits.

"There's some hits in the games, that I get real excited right after," he said. "I think it's a big hit, but at the same time I feel weak inside, too."

Tupe feels a sense of urgency, because it took him a little longer to get to A&M. He went on a church mission out of high school before attending junior college, where he earned All-America honors.

A&M beat out Hawaii and Michigan State for Tupe.

TUPE PROFILE

Ht./Wt.: 5-foot-10, 250 pounds

Classification/Position: Junior/linebacker

Junior college accomplishments: 57 solo tackles, 37 assists, 13 tackles for loss and 5 sacks for 9-3 record team. ... NJCAA All-American (second team). ... Finalist for NJCAA National Defensive Player of the Year. ... Western States Football League Defensive Player of the Year. ... Scout.com No. 5 JUCO linebacker. ... .

High school honors: Two-time all-state, all-area and all-region. ... 1999 Utah Region 4 MVP... signed with Utah out of high school.

"I heard they were looking for some linebackers," Tupe said. "They had a few seniors who left last year. They had Justin Warren coming back, so I was looking at coming here. I was looking to come in here and fill a spot, just to help out with the team. "

He's done more than just help out - Tupe is developing into a star.

He played about 70 percent of the snaps against Missouri, even though the Tigers use the spread offense. Not bad for someone listed as the fourth or fifth linebacker heading into fall drills.

He wasn't even the team's top junior college transfer.

Fellow linebacker Mark Dodge, who transferred in early and took part in spring drills, was listed as the starter. And defensive back Johnathan Batson, the national player of the year last season, was expected to make an impact in a secondary that was last in the nation in pass defense.

Tupe has dwarfed them. He has 40 tackles, four for losses. Both marks rank third on the team. He's broken up two passes and recovered a fumble. Tupe's play has solidified the Aggie defense, becoming a playmaker in the new 4-2-5 alignment.

He could be considered for the conference's defensive newcomer of the year if he and the Aggies finish the season strongly.

The preseason pick was Texas freshman linebacker Sergio Kindle, who has played in five games, getting 16 tackles, two of them behind the line.

"When you talk about one of those impact guys you weren't planning on or didn't know about, he certainly is one," Darnell said.

He's getting better with every snap.

"In the first game, I kinda had a hard time trying to get my alignments, and communicating with the secondary," Tupe said. "I was just trying to get a hold of things in Division I football. Every game, I just see myself progressing a lot. Every day, I'm trying to be better, working on those things - with my alignments, learning the different plays, [like] the way you are blitzing. This last game, I'm just getting a hold of things real well right now, just trying to fly to the ball."

Tupe said he doesn't know what his 40-yard time is, but as long as he's fast enough to get his hands on the runner, he's satisfied.

"The speed of the game is really different from the speed of the game in junior college," he said. "Coming from a junior college, you can relate it to a high school game. In the Big 12, everything is fast. That's a big step for me, too, trying to run as fast as those guys."


NOTES - Darnell said Tupe "isn't 100 percent dialed into everything we're doing, but he's close." ... Tupe said he's not worried about how many tackles he gets, only the ones he misses. ... Tupe is fluent in Samoan, English and Tagalog (a Philippine language). He did the Haka, a traditional Samoan war dance, before a team meeting in the fall to inspire his teammates. And in a sense, he's still doing it. "When I put my helmet on and the maroon jersey, it's a different feeling," he said. "It's trying to be a warrior out there, to play to the best of my ability. Everyone here always says, 'He's quiet. But on the field, he's something else.'" ... Tupe said the thing Darnell always tells him is, "Keep my head up coming up to hit, and keep my feet going." ... Tupe credits Bullitt with making his transition smoother. ... He's become a big Aggie in just a few months. "Life outside football is really good," he said. "I'm excited to have my brother [Sini] out here. I live with my brother. It's just good to have someone to help you outside football things."

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