BOULDER - When Colorado enters the Pac-12 Conference next fall, Jon Embree might be leaning a little more heavily on three members of his football staff for premium information on the Buffs' new opponents.
Offensive line coach Steve Marshall, defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo and defensive coordinator/secondary coach Greg Brown came to CU from Pac-10 schools, with Tuiasosopo's seven-year tenure at Arizona the longest among the trio.
Embree predicted the threesome's knowledge of the Pac-10, which adds CU and Utah next season, will be "invaluable" to him in terms of fundamental football information and recruiting.
Embree and Tuiasosopo first became acquainted when Embree was recruiting for CU and Tuiasosopo coached at Berkeley (Calif.) High School. Embree helped lure a couple of Tuiasosopo's top players - linebacker Hannibal Navies and defensive back Rashidi Barnes - to Boulder.
But other than turning out good college prospects, Tuiasosospo made an impression on Embree in how he interacted with players and how he didn't bow to then-Oakland Skyline High School coaching legend John Beam.
"At that time, when I went to their school, he was the only coach who wasn't afraid of Skyline," Embree said. "Skyline, hands down, was the school in the Bay Area. But 'Tui' had this competitiveness; he'd say we're going to beat them and get after them . . . he did a great job with those kids."
Embree then followed Tuiasosopo's career stops at Utah State and Utah, watching how Utah State's D-line played against the Buffs in Boulder in 1998. CU won 25-6, but Embree remembers the Buffs surrendering "eight or nine sacks . . . and a lot of it was just the front four. Sometimes sacks can be misleading because of blitzes, but he does a great job of getting pressure with four.
"He was in a program (at Arizona) that's similar to ours. He's not afraid to build, to compete. He never made excuses when I was at UCLA and we were playing. He never said we don't have the guys, we don't have this or that. He always got his players to produce. That was what it was about me wanting to have Mike Tuisasopo on my staff. And he's a heck of a recruiter."
Asked if leaving Arizona to join a first-year head coach's first staff required a leap of faith, Tuiasosopo laughed and answered, "It depends on how you describe a leap of faith. It's not blind faith, I can tell you that. I have great respect for Jon as a person and as a coach. I've always wanted to work with Jon. It's a great opportunity at a great school."