Last season, Brunner was one of six players, and the only underclassman, to be named first-team all-state on both sides of the football by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association. He also received honorable mention all-state as an offensive and defensive tackle from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and honorable mention all-state offensive tackle by the Associated Press.
But Brunner stands 6-foot-1 3/4, 260 pounds — shy of ideal size in the eyes of college football recruiters.
"He plays like a beast," Greendale coach Rob Stoltz said in a telephone interview last week. "You watch film on him, he goes against Josh Oglesby and you watch who the dominant player is in that game, and it's not a question. It's not. But the fact of the matter is Eric will not be playing on Sundays, Josh will be. Josh obviously can get a whole lot better. I think scouts — that's what they see. They see potential. They see size. You can't coach size and I think that's why Eric hasn't been offered yet."
Several programs — predominantly Mid-American Conference schools or Division I-AA programs — stopped by Greendale during the spring evaluation period to check out Brunner. Wisconsin visited the school, as did MAC programs Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Ball State, Division I-AA schools such as North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Illinois State and Southeast Missouri State and Division II North Dakota.
"Neither one of us, Eric included, is real worried. We know it will happen," Stoltz said of a potential scholarship offer for Brunner. "It is just a matter of when, especially when you are talking about a player who is undersized. But then again you are talking about the only junior in the whole state who was a two-way all-state player, accomplished on both sides of the ball.
"But realistically his position is going to be (defensive) line in college. Especially if teams are looking to employ an odd front, a three front, I think he can be that guy right in the middle."
"I'd say a nose guard, but… in a three front," Stoltz added. "To say he's going to be more of a two-gap player in a four is probably not realistic, unless they are looking at being a very, very aggressive four-front team. In which case I think you could take advantage of his athleticism."
In an even-front defense, Brunner would likely be a five-technique tackle. Stoltz figures Brunner can carry about 285 pounds on his frame. He added that Brunner runs the 40-yard dash in 5.1 seconds.
"He's a football player," Stoltz said. "That's it plain and simple. He doesn't have the measurables but you watch the kid on film and he's unbelievable. He has started every game for us since his first day as a freshman. And we knew that he was going to be an all-state player by the time he was a junior. It turned out he was a two-way all-state player. Accolades mean nothing, obviously, in the eyes of recruiters.
"But the fact of the matter is he dominates everyone. Everyone."
Brunner started on Greendale's offensive line as a 237-pound freshman and played a little on defense that year. He was a two-way starter the past two seasons.
"He's handled everything extremely well," Stoltz said. "He's a 28 ACT kid, a 3.4 GPA kid."
Brunner was scheduled to attend a camp at Ball State last weekend and he also plans to attend camps at Central Michigan, Wisconsin, Western Michigan and perhaps North Dakota State, according to Stoltz.
"He is by far the best high school player I've seen," Stoltz said.