Tuinei, in his first fall camp with the Ducks, didn't see all the dropped balls that came before him. Instead, he is part of a new receiving corps that is changing the personality of the position at Oregon. Instead of receivers who are long on talent but lacking good hands, this group of long-limbed ones takes catching and blocking very seriously.
And leading the way is Tuinei, a junior college transfer who might become one of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's favorite targets.
"I guess, if I was a quarterback, I'd love that, too -- a 6-5 guy against 5-9 corners," said Tuinei when told how comfortable Masoli feels throwing to him.
Said Masoli of Tuinei: "He makes some spectacular catches with his long body. I had a tall receiver in junior college, too. It kind of brings back some memories. You can miss a little more with the tall guys."All of the Ducks' receivers except 6-foot Blake Cantu are 6-1 or taller. And Masoli has huge targets in tight ends Ed Dickson (6-5) and Dion Jordan (6-7). Even 6-1 Jeff Maehl has surprisingly long arms and big hands.
If coach Chip Kelly could list his favorite qualities in a receiver, it would probably be something like this: Tough, tall and tireless. And barely tipping the scales at 200 pounds, Tuinei is a surprisingly effective blocker.
"Even though he looks skinny, he's one of our most physical blockers," Kelly said. "It helped immensely he was here for spring practice. I think he's going to play a lot for us this year."
Tuinei is among the few receivers who has played a lot this fall. Maehl missed time early in camp with a sore knee but has looked good of late. Jamere Holland, the fastest of the group, has been slowed by knee and quadriceps injuries.
Newcomers Diante Jackson and Tyrece Gaines also have had knee problems, but they are nearing full strength and the Ducks should have all of them available for the season opener at Boise State on Sept.3 except the sure-handed Rory Cavaille (shoulder).
"I haven't seen enough of any of them," Kelly said last week when asked who is earning playing time among the receivers.
And there are a lot of balls up for grabs.
Maehl is the only returning receiver who caught more than five passes last season. The junior had 39catches in 2008, and although he's not as tall as Tuinei, his relative experience makes him a reliable target.
"If he's my primary, I'll hang onto him a little longer just because he has the cuts and the experience to do what he has to do," Masoli said.
Masoli also spent a good chunk of the summer mentoring Gaines, another junior college transfer who roomed with Masoli when he arrived on campus.
"JC guys always come with a little chip on their shoulder, they think they know everything," Masoli said. "But I showed him the ropes, especially as a former JC guy myself, I kind of showed him the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do."
Kelly said much of the transition from junior college to the Football Bowl Subdivision is the terminology.
"He's got a good football knowledge background," Kelly said of Gaines. "It's a matter of almost sometimes learning a new language, where he may have called it this at Butler (Community College), but we call it this here. But it's the same concept. Maybe they should make a Rosetta stone for football offenses."
Then there's the new terminology of "tazer" for Oregon's offense. That's the hybrid slot position that has added a wrinkle to the Ducks' scheme this fall. It's basically what Dickson played much of last season, but now Kelly is putting running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner there, too.
"I'll play any position," James said. "I'll play tight end if that would get it done."
That's the kind of eagerness that has pleased Kelly through the nagging injuries and uncertainty -- that and the fact that fewer balls are hitting the ground after receivers' hands.
When the receivers are rangy, like Tuinei, the catches just add up.
"LT's smart with it, too," new receivers coach Scott Frost said of Tuinei's frame. "He does a good job of shielding people off, and he's made a lot of tough catches."
Masoli said he is eager to see how his new receivers respond in the nationally televised opener at Bronco Stadium.