Tony Brinkhuas Talks about Move to Center

Tony Brinkhuas, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound junior from Bloomington Jefferson, will replace All-American Greg Eslinger at center after starting all 12 games at right tackle last season. GoldenSports.Net recently caught up with Brinkhaus to learn about his expectations for the season.

Tony Brinkhaus was a honorable-mention All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and the media. He was named to the College Football News Sophomore All-America Team. Brinkhaus joined Mike Nicholson, Steve Shidell and Matt Spaeth as the only Gophers to participate in at least 1,000 plays. He helped lead the Gophers to an average of 494.8 yards of total offense per game in 2005, which ranked seventh in the nation, was the highest average in school history, and ranked third all-time in Big Ten history for average yards per game in a season.

How does the running game look with some key losses to the front line and running backs?

"We are going to have to find the guys who are going to be in there and get them some experience running behind us. Everybody runs differently and we obviously won't have Laurence Maroney back there, but we have more than capable backs who are going to come in and we are going to keep the tradition going."

Will your role change as offensive lineman as far as blocking schemes? Will this be more of a passing team? Will that be more of a learning curve for you guys?

"We worked a lot on the passing game in the spring and what I think it was trying to do was to set us up, so we were able to do it if need be. I think at this point of time, it's going to come down to getting the offensive line together. Finding the unit. The best five guys that we can get out there. I don't think that we are going to go insane and say that we are going to pass this much more. I think we are going to try to develop more of a passing game, because we do have a guy like Bryan Cupito back there, who is looking to have a huge season. He has kind of taken the team on his shoulders."
You and your offensive line teammates have had good chemistry in the past. Is that important?

"It definitely matters. I think chemistry is a huge thing, especially in our system. Our blocking scheme relies a lot on the calls that we make pre-snap. One thing that people overlook is how much we use our tight ends and fullbacks in our blocking schemes. I think that Matt Spaeth is no doubt the best blocking tight end in the country. Justin Valentine is a great blocker coming out of the backfield. You put that all together, plus the experience that we do have coming back, I think that we are going to be a lot better than people expect us to be."

How is it going to be different this year with you being more of a leader? You obviously lost two great lineman. How has that changed your role or leadership aspect?

"It was not something given to me, but I am a fourth-year guy going into the season and I played a lot last year. We are going to have a lot of new faces. We have a good chance to having a freshman playing on our line. That is a big deal. You have to make sure that we do everything to bring him along right. We also have some position changes like myself. It's just going to take some time. I think that we are more than capable. I think that we are going to be a lot better than people expect us to be and I think that we are capable to doing some big things."

How is the position change? Obviously you get used to playing one position, but I know that you played a few different positions in high school. How tough of a transition is that?

"The toughest part for me was during spring was when I changed. They did not know whether I was going to play guard or center, so I was trying to balance learning two new positions in a better cramped-in period. That was really difficult because I was not able to focus in on things for one position and get everything out of it that I could. The last week of spring I was exclusively playing center and I came a long ways during that time. I think that it is going to take some reps, some time to get used to the guys next to me. I think that it is going to work out well though. "

How much is it different in terms of the blocking schemes? Obviously Greg (Eslinger) pulled a lot. That was one of his big strengths. How does that change for you?

"One thing about Minnesota football is that we pull our tackles more than most teams in the country. You don't see it with Greg, because he is usually leading the backs. It is not that I'm used to pulling. It's just a different kind of pulling. We did not really work at it as much in the spring, because we were focusing on getting the little things right. Getting the basic plays down before they want me to worry about pulling every play. It is definitely not something that we are going to take out of the offense. It is something that I look to get a lot better at and I think that it will be a big thing for us this year."

You talked about some of the young players. What kind of scouting report do you have on a freshman from Bloomington Jefferson?

"Andy Brinkhaus (laughing). He came into summer and reported for summer school. He was here every day this summer. I was very impressed with his work ethic. It says a lot about this whole freshman class. I think there was something like 13 guys who reported early and gave up their last summer to come out here and work. Because the bottom line was that they wanted to play. They don't want to sit on the bench. Obviously, judging from the past, they are not going to all play, but they are coming in with the attitude that they want to make a difference. That's huge."

You are obviously trying to focus on your play, but did you sometimes sneak a look and say my little brother is doing well down there?

"I found myself a lot this year peeking to the side to see how he was doing. I was trying not to be the big brother too much. I was trying to encourage him a lot like during on run tests. It is a pretty cool experience to be able to do it. Not many people can say that they played on a Big Ten team together and I have an opportunity to do it for two years, so I'm looking forward to it."

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