Chris Klieman came into the Kansas State football program as a head coach wanting to change the culture, but sustain the tradition of success for the Wildcats. He also wanted to expand the Wildcats’ recruiting footprint. That’s where defensive tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo already has made a difference.
Tuiasosopo has worked in two of the most football-player-heavy states in the nation, Texas and California. He was the defensive line coach in El Paso at UTEP in 2018 — working under then-first year coach and former K-State offensive coordinator Dana Dimel — and before that he was at Southern California as a special teams quality control assistant in 2017. He was at USC for three years and three other Pac-12 schools before that in UCLA, Utah and Arizona, making his knowledge of players out West valuable for Klieman and the Wildcats.
“I hope to think that I bring a wealth of experience,” Tuiasosopo said. “Coach Klieman always says you have to have guys who can mentor young people, coach young people and also, I’m sure, some of it has to do with recruiting. I’m hoping that I can help our program that way.”
While Tuiasosopso said he sees the value in recruiting players from all over the nation, that doesn’t mean some regions necessarily have better players than others.
“To me, there is no difference in players. They are players,” Tuiasosopo said. “You have to find the good players everywhere. If anything, maybe there are more of them in the LA (Los Angeles) area or in California (in general), just like there are many more of them than say other parts of the country. Texas has a lot of good players, but they are everywhere. There are a lot of great players here on our team from the state of Kansas. Some of our best players are from Kansas and Missouri in the Kansas City area.”
One of the current Wildcats Tuiasosopo already recruited from his time on the West Coast is Matthew Pola-Mao. When Pola-Mao was a sophomore in high school, Tuiasosopo actually offered him a scholarship to USC. Instead, Pola-Mao wound up following his new coach to Kansas State. Pola-Mao’s commitment to his coach is indicative of energy flowing through a program in the first year of a new era.
At the team’s media day the players raved about the coaching staff and the changes that were made.
Tuiasosopo felt the same way.
“It’s been first class,” Tuiasosopo said. “You look at facilities, I mean our facilities are as good as, for instance, any other I’ve been to in the Pac-12. The quality of people in our program is second to none and I have great respect for Coach Klieman. He’s won championships. That speaks louder than words. That’s impressive and I’ve been impressed by his leadership. I have greatly appreciated for being here because of Coach Klieman and the way he runs his program and the leadership, but I also have appreciation because of the people here. And it’s fun. Our players are fun to coach. They are coach-able, they work hard and are tough. That’s a standard that’s been here.”