Utah State football staff loses coach to Utah
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Logan • Utah State's newfound football success has left its coaching staff vulnerable.

On Thursday morning, USU running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki told the Salt Lake Tribune that he is leaving the Aggies to join Kyle Whittingham's staff at the University of Utah.

There, Tuiaki, who had been in integral part of Gary Andersen's staff in Logan, will be either a tight ends or running backs coach, depending on what Whittingham decides for Jay Hill. Tuiaki will step in and have a big recruiting role for Utah, and he will receive a significant financial raise.

"The last 24 hours have been tough for me," Tuiakisaid. "I'm leaving a bunch of kids that I really care about. At the same time, this is a raise that will help me take care of my family. I told coach Andersen what it was and he couldn't began to fight it. I love Utah State, but I'm excited to have an opportunity to join coach Whittingham's staff."

With the Aggies, Tuiaki tutored, coached and mentored the running backs. He's had a big hand in the improvement and success of Kerwynn Williams and Michael Smith, who teamed with Robert Turbin to form the best trio of backs in the Western Athletic Conference this past season.

Tuiaki also had a big hand in the successful recruitment of a number of Polynesian players who have made the trek to Logan over the last three years. Tuiaki has had a long relationship with Andersen. He played for him at Southern Utah, he was a graduate assistant for him at Utah, coaching the strong side linebackers for the 2008 Sugar Bowl team, and he was one of Andersen's first hires at Utah State in 2009.

"This has happened so fast," Tuiaki said. "Coach Whittingham first approached me yesterday. This opportunity means a lot to me."

tjones@sltrib.com Ilaisa Tuiaki

Played at Southern Utah

Is a native of Provo

Is married with five children

Was the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Utah State

Will be in his second stint at Utah