QB loved chicken but passed on UA

2008-11-13T00:00:00Z QB loved chicken but passed on UABy Patrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 13, 2008 12:00 am  • 

The chicken, Jeremiah Masoli admits now, lived up to the hype.

Visiting Tucson on a recruiting trip in April, the City College of San Francisco quarterback went to the Arizona Wildcats' spring football game.

Afterward, he witnessed a better tradition — the heralded teriyaki chicken prepared by Willie Tuitama's father, Lui, at the UA quarterback's house.

"Everybody should taste that," Masoli said.

It was not enough to keep Masoli from choosing Oregon at the end of April in what proved to be a fortuitous move.

Entering Saturday's home game against the Arizona Wildcats, the 20-year-old is ranked sixth in the Pac-10, averaging 153.8 yards of total offense.

And it all started with a highlight reel.

In January, after leading CCSF to a national title, Masoli — the MVP of the California Junior College State Championship game — began sending tapes to schools nationwide.

Because he had academically qualified out of high school in Honolulu, Masoli was eligible to leave CCSF after one season. But he said he was not sure he was ready to leave yet.

"Maybe coaches could see me and come to a game or two the next season," he said.

Masoli, however, received offers to leave right away. He considered Arizona, Auburn, Arkansas and Oregon.

A bruising runner, he decided he could not live in Auburn. He did not want to redshirt. He then removed the Wildcats from his list.

"Willie's the man there," Masoli said. "I didn't want to come in and upset things."

Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said Masoli was trying to be selective, searching for spread offenses to highlight his talent.

The Ducks get "literally hundreds, maybe even thousands of CDs and videos" every year, Bellotti said.

"We find a lot of times the great players don't have to send things out," Bellotti said.

Behind Masoli, the Ducks average 274.30 rushing yards per game — fifth-best in the nation.

Running backs Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount combine for 156.6 yards per game.

But Masoli's ability to run — he has totaled 470 rushing yards — makes the Ducks unpredictable.

"You have to take care of the run game — but the way they set the run game up, it's not like you can throw a lot of people at them, too," UA coach Mike Stoops said. "They have plays to complement him."

Masoli's passing attack has been less consistent. He has completed 86 of 164 attempts, fewer than eight other Pac-10 starters.

Against Stanford on Saturday, Ducks fans booed him.

Bellotti said Oregon fans "expect perfection, unfortunately."

It was the first time Masoli had been booed at home.

"That just comes with the territory," Masoli said. "Fans demand a lot out of you. You just have to tune that out. When fans are cheering, you tune that out, too."

Trailing by one with 2:18 left, Masoli led the Ducks on an 11-play, 74-yard drive to win the game.

Masoli said he did not feel vindicated after being booed.

"You can't make a last-minute drive any sweeter," he said.

Junior defensive end Will Tukuafu, who verbally committed to Arizona before changing his mind, sees a transformation.

"He's feeling a lot more comfortable," said Tukuafu, who is fourth in the Pac-10 with seven sacks. "He's not panicking as much as he used to.

"The Masoli I see right now is the Masoli I saw in the junior college highlight film. The video's awesome. He runs back 20 yards and then breaks one downfield. Or he'll do the same thing and chuck it for 20 to 30 yards."

That was only a year ago.

"Look where I am now," Masoli said.

Up next

• What: Arizona at Oregon

• When: Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

• TV: FSAZ

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp)

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