Last season, Taliulu
started the first two games as a true freshman and racked up 16 tackles. But then he all but disappeared, not starting another game and posting only another six takedowns the rest of the way. What happened?
The Hawaii native got homesick. And that colored everything else.
"I felt like I didn't play to the best of my ability during the Eastern game…and then I was just homesick… I talked to Coach Breske
about it. There's nothing I can do about it now but I know I'm going to come in hot this spring," said Taliulu.
Taliulu isn't homesick any longer. What changed? Slowly but surely, Taliulu built some strong friendships within a number of his teammates, something he wasn't able to fully do last year in the short time between when the freshman arrived on campus and the season began.
"I'm real focused, this is the most focused I've been," said Taliulu. "And then with spring break coming up I'll get to go home. But it was (something that took) time and a combination of my teammates -- getting to know them, building relationships with everyone that really helped."
As much as he was missing home, however, Taliulu says he never considered leaving WSU.
"No, not at all. We have great coaches here, and they all helped me realize not everything is going to come right away... and you just have to work for it," said Taliulu.
WORK AT IT
he has, this offseason.
Taliulu checked in at 5-11, 175 pounds when he arrived to Washington State last year. There's a lot of conditioning that will occur from now until the season, and players will lean up. But headed into spring ball, Taliulu has packed 26 pounds onto his frame from last season.
"I'm still the same height, and then I weigh about 201…Strength-wise, I feel I'm getting stronger, getting faster. Strength coach (Jason) Loscalzo has really helped me," said Taliulu.
How good does he feel physically right now? Taliulu said he wished he could do some more Midnight Maneuvers sessions, (which came to an end last month.)
"We did really well as a group in those," said Taliulu.
TALIULU SAID HE
expects a big battle this spring between himself and Locker
on the field. But he said it won't carry over to off the field.
"We get along really well," Taliulu said. "When I first got here, he really helped me out. I'm just looking forward to competing.. and he is too, the competition is going to be great, were going to make each other better.
"(I get along) with all the older guys, actually, they were key aspects with me getting me to where I'm at now, Deone (especially) and all the secondary guys have been assisting me and getting me better for the season to come – I'm really thankful to all of them and hopefully I can contribute more to the team because of it."
With Bucannon at strong safety, and Taliulu a free safety, what are the major differences between the two spots in Mike Breske's defense? There's not many, says Taliulu.
"I think its knowing your assignment ..putting the work in…get the job done on game day. We're really interchangeable… we can switch up positions… as long as there are two guys back there that know their job, that's the important thing," said Taliulu.
And to play in Breske's defense, Taliulu said, is thrilling. And instead of adding pressure that his position coach is also the defensive coordinator, it actually makes it easier.
"I've never seen anything like it before, Coach Breske's defense, schemes -- the things he brings to the game is something totally new," said Taliulu. "I'm really excited by his enthusiasm, he's going to push you to be that guy, he wants you to be the best player…and the way he runs things, you can talk to him about your assignment and he explains it to you.
"You can really learn things from him -- it's all in one with him being your position coach and defensive coordinator."
Taliulu said one of best friends on the team is his roommate, wide receiver Brett Bartolone. "We have a great connection, but I hang out with anyone, I know everyone on a personal basis."
Taliulu said his goals for the upcoming spring session, which begins March 21, are simple. "To get more familiar with defense, fly around and make big plays. As a defense, I felt we did good last year but we have to make every play, that's what it comes down to. I just want to do what I have to in order to make sure the defense is successful."
ONE OF THE position battle royales to unfold this spring will be at free safety, where second-year sophomore Taylor Taliulu will square off against fifth-year senior Casey Locker. Taliulu is considerably bigger this spring but the physical change isn't the greatest transformation for him this offseason.
Considerably bigger this spring, that's not the greatest area of growth for sophomore free safety