QB on the Brink: Alex in his own words

PULLMAN — For all the criticism Cougar quarterback Alex Brink fielded in 2005, his numbers don't lie. The sophomore completed 57 percent of his passes for 2,891 yards, 24 TDs and 13 picks, placing him statistically among the best in the Pac-10. Brink's efficiency rating (140) was third to Matt Leinart and Drew Olson. Another number that doesn't lie, however, was a 1-7 conference record. Brink recently sat down with Cougfan.com to talk about last season, next season, and everything in between.

CF.C: Did you pay attention to the newspapers and Internet when people were suggesting – or demanding – that you be benched?

Brink: No. You try to separate yourself from those things. Everyone wants to win -- the players, the coaches most of all, and obviously the fans and people associated with the program. Everyone likes a winning team, so it's hard when you're losing games. I just tried to surround myself with the people – my family, coaches and players – people that understand what we're going through and how hard it is. I tried to pay as little attention to the Internet and the papers and things like that as possible.

THE FILE ON
Alex Brink
HOMETOWN:
Eugene, Ore. (Sheldon High '03)

MAJOR:
Sports Management

BODY:
6-foot-2, 212 pounds

PREP CAREER:
Named Oregon offensive player of the year as a senior. Led team to 4A championship game as a senior and runner-up as a junior. Concluded prep career with more passing yards than any QB in Oregon history (9,262) and the second-most passing TDs (92).

RECRUITING TRAIL:
Rated by Scout.com as one of the top 75 prep QB prospects in the nation. Committed verbally to Boise State before Timm Rosenbach made the Palouse sales pitch.

COUGAR CAREER:
Redshirted in 2003. Started five games in 2004 after Josh Swogger was injured. Won 2006 starter's job in fall camp and proceeded to throw for 2,891 yards (seventh on the school's single-season list) and 24 TDs (No. 4 on the school's single-season list).

LOFTY PLACE:
With WSU's 26-22 win over Washington in November, Brink became the first WSU starting QB ever to beat the Huskies twice. In 2004 he guided the Cougs to a 28-25 win.

FAST FACT:
Broke WSU record for passing yards in a single game when he fired for 531 in this past season's loss at Oregon State. The previous mark was 476 yards, set by Drew Bledsoe against Utah in the 1992 Copper Bowl.

CF.C: Was there ever a time this season, when maybe you'd thrown a couple picks or the offense just wasn't moving, when you were looking to the sidelines to see if Josh was warming up?

Brink: No. I understood that I had the confidence of the coaches and that the job was mine. I certainly made some mistakes, but those mistakes were things I learned from and worked through and felt like I got better from. Knowing that I had the coaches' confidence, I was rarely looking over my shoulder.

CF.C: Did you see Josh Swogger's transfer coming before it happened?

Brink: Yeah. As a quarterback, you understand that everybody at this position wants to play, but at the same time you understand that only one guy can on the team. I certainly understand his situation because it's hard. I've been there, too. To sit behind somebody, you always feel like you should have the opportunity to play and should get the opportunity to play. I feel like it's really the best for him, and I've talked to him since. I know he's really excited about the opportunity and he's gonna do great over there. I know he will.

CF.C: What was the highlight of your season?

Brink: The Apple Cup. Just getting that win, there were a lot of things you could get out of it. It was our first Pac-10 win and a springboard into our off-season program. It gives us confidence as a team that we should be able to play with every team in this league and beat every team in this league. It was big to get that win at the end of the season, because to end on a loss is no fun at all.

CF.C: Do you think your performance that day – 280-plus yards, two touchdowns, leading the game-winning drive – did anything to silence your critics?

Brink: I wouldn't say one game is gonna silence anybody. I still have a lot to prove and I understand that. I was certainly far from perfect throughout this whole season, and I feel like there were some good spots. But there were a lot of things I can look back on and improve. I think it's kinda unwarranted to say it's gonna silence the critics, but it's one of those bright spots that shows I can accomplish things.

CF.C: Were you aware of Jason Hill's decision to come back to WSU before his press conference?

Brink: Yeah. I had talked to him a couple of days before.

CF.C: What did you two talk about aside from him just telling you he was coming back?

Brink: He talked about the evaluation and his grades from the scouts. It wasn't what he wanted. I knew that he wanted first or second round. We talked about that, and about how he wanted to come back to school and finish his degree. I think he really thought a lot about his decision and talked to the right people and made a really well-informed decision. I think it's good for him.

CF.C: What does having Jason on the field do for yourself and for the offense in general?

Brink: You could see his impact on our offense in those two games he was out this season. Hill missed the second half against Oregon State and didn't play against Stanford after suffering a thigh bruise) He's real key as far as the big play and producing touchdowns. He really keys some of our offensive philosophies. To have him back this year is really beneficial. It certainly wouldn't have killed us if he had decided to leave, but we don't have to break a new guy in during the season; we have an experienced playmaker.

CF.C: Have you heard anything that hasn't already been reported about Michael Bumpus' academic situation?

Brink: I haven't. I just know what everyone else knows.

CF.C: For the moment, let's assume Bumpus stays at WSU. Given that, the team still lost a few receivers, guys like Trandon Harvey, Troy Bienemann and Greg Prator. Talk about the holes those guys have left, and who can fill them.


MUTUAL ADMIRATION: Brink and Harvey all smiles after game-winning Apple Cup TD.



Brink: I think the biggest thing is that you lose experience and you lose guys that have been through the fire … You lose them, but at the same time, you bring back a guy like Cody Boyd who's a playmaker and a real athletic tight end who you can do a lot of things with. If he can stay healthy for the whole year, he can be really dynamic in our offense. Receiver-wise, I think we have a good group coming back with Jason Hill, and you've got four guys that started: Jason, Michael, Brandon (Gibson) and Chris Jordan, so those are four guys who are experienced at this level. Plus, you bring in guys, like some of the recruits were getting. We have two guys coming here in the spring (WR Finas Rabb and TE Jason Price), which helps a lot because they can go through the whole spring and summer conditioning and really get a feel for the offense .... I think depending on where we're at with our number of receivers, a guy like (cornerback Lorenzo) Bursey can come over and play in the slot. He's certainly athletic enough and talented enough to do that. So we have a lot of weapons and a lot of talent, it's just a mater of finding those pieces and putting them together to make the puzzle right.

CF.C: Jerome Harrison is going to be the main player everyone looks at when it comes to replacing seniors. Talk about replacing him.

Brink: I would say it's very difficult to nearly impossible to replace Jerome entirely ... With the guys we have now – DeMaundray (Woolridge), Kevin (McCall) and Dwight (Tardy) – one of those guys can step up and assume the role of the starter in the spring. They're definitely talented enough to do it. I think we're bringing in three running backs in this new class. Hopefully those guys can realize that there's an opportunity there to be had. It's gonna be difficult to replace (Jerome), but I certainly think we can do it to some degree. It's not gonna slow our offense down.

CF.C: Take a minute to evaluate the three quarterbacks behind you; Gary Rogers, Arkelon Hall and Cole Morgan.

Brink: All three of them are obviously really thin on experience. Gary has gotten some chances to throw in games to kinda see what it's like, so he's obviously the most experienced of the three. He's got a lot of talent and a lot of ability --- not only his arm strength, which is a huge asset for him, but he's also really athletic. He's obviously bigger and faster and stronger than probably even me, so he's a guy that certainly has a bright future. The other two guys, both of them definitely have some growing up to do, but they've shown signs of the obvious talent they have and why we recruited them here. Cole's a guy who's a little bit more like me --- a heady player who's gonna be good at getting the ball to his playmakers and making some athletic plays. Arkelon's got a big arm and some experience in the spread offense, so he understands the game really well.

CF.C: What is it gonna take to make you a better quarterback for 2006?

Brink: The biggest thing for me now is the physical side: continuing to get bigger and stronger and gain weight. I felt like I made some strides from my freshman year to my sophomore year, I'd just like to do even more of that physically from my sophomore to my junior year. I think with our weight program it's something I can attain. You can never stop improving on the mental side of the game, like watching film and learning from other people. I can talk to Coach (Timm) Rosenbach; he's a guy who's been through everything. I can talk to him and learn a lot from him. I certainly need to improve on that part of my game, just continuing to learn.


ON THE RUN: Brink shows his agility in ‘04.



CF.C: The assumption is that USC will take a step back next season after losing Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White and others. Given that, how do you see the Pac-10 turning out next season?

Brink: I think for the past few years it's been USC and everyone else. I don't' see that as much this year. I don't think SC will fall off that much, but it is gonna be more competitive as a whole, 10-team league. I think we have as good a shot as anybody. At this level, in this league, especially when teams kinda get on a roll, that really benefits them. You get that confidence. Those teams that get wins early, it really helps them. I think SC loses some dynamic players on offense, but they return a pretty good defense, which was young last year. Oregon returns a lot. I think everybody has certain roster spots to fill which are important, but that happens every year.

CF.C: Who are some other football players you've looked up to or still look up to?

Brink: I really like looking up to Peyton Manning. I met him when I went down to his camp this last summer and coached at the passing clinic they put on. I got a chance to meet him on a peer level and a professional level. I got to talk to him and his brother (Eli Manning) and pick his mind. Then you get to watch him during the season and see some of the things he's doing. Another guy is Tom Brady, a guy who does everything right … and gets the job done when the odds are stacked against him.

CF.C: Does a quarterback have to be a leader?

Brink: I do think that the quarterback has to be a team leader. Regardless if he's a captain or not, he's the leader of the offense …. I do feel like I'm a leader of this team, like I can really step up this season and be one of the leaders of the offense and leaders of the team as a whole. There aren't a lot of guys who have proven themselves on an All-American or All-Pac-10 extent. You know, guys like Jason Hill and Mkristo Bruce, those are guys who have done it and those guys are definitely gonna step up as leaders and I hope I can be right there with them.

CF.C: What are your goals for next season?

Brink: The first thing is to be Pac-10 champs. That's always the goal. Stepping stones to that would be to start the season out strong as a team. We'll go down to Auburn and have an opportunity to play probably a Top-10 team at their home stadium. A goal would definitely be to start the season off right and win down there. From there, it's winning ball games and – most important after these last two seasons – just getting bowl-eligible. From there we'll work towards something like a Pac-10 championship.

Brink and Mihlhauser spearhead the attack.




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