Cal cannot replace an all Pac-12 first team player easily, but that is the task that awaits the Golden Bears this season – finding someone who can expertly handle the center position as well as did Brian Schwenke.
Though it is still early in spring practice, it looks as if Mark Brazinski will get the first shot at doing that. We caught up with Brazinski after practice Wednesday where he spoke about the unique role that centers have in the new offense - and shared some differences about the team locker room under coach Sonny Dykes.
“Outside of what we (today) needed pads for, we [the offense] have everything we need,” Brazinski said of the new Bear Raid offense. “Everything's there.”
“Our last (year's) offense was really intricate, really thick. This one's much simpler. Once you've been through the offenses that I've been through, it's easy to conceptualize it - and just go. Just go play football. It's nice.”
As far as where he fits into the Bear Raid, Brazinski explained, “The center in almost every offense has a standard – he needs to call out fronts. Team members then need to ensure that everyone's been communicated with (about) the play. They need to ensure that traffic will move smoothly.“
“The only added difference is that the center now has the responsibility of calling the cadence. What that does is it keeps the offensive line in-house. It lets the quarterback – in my opinion – worry about other things. He just has to watch the ball. He doesn't have to worry about his timing or anything else - that's on me now.“
“If it keeps working the way it does, we shouldn't have to use a lot of silent [counts]. In the future, when we go play at loud venues like Autzen, it'd be nice to not have to go silent, and still garner a lot of the advantages that the offense has.”
Brazinski also had praise for new offensive line coach Zach Yenser, emphasizing again that he no longer had to think so much from play to play.
“He's a very, very, very intense guy,” Brazinski said. “We – the linemen and myself especially – really enjoy that. Someone who is coaching you, pushing you, cheering you on, and really letting (us) just let it go, and go after it - is just awesome.”
“He kept the offense for the O-line very very simple. We literally just get the play, learn it, and go. There's not a thousand nuances to it. Just go.”
With all the changes surrounding the program, the new coaching staff has made a point of saying that the players need to “buy in” to the system in order to have success. When asked if he had thought about that himself, Brazinski said that he couldn't speak for everyone else, but that, “For my unit alone, the offensive line, everyone is full go.”
“We're all embracing the new system,” he added. “We enjoy learning the new nuances of it. We see the advantages it can give us.”
One major change Brazinski noticed under Coach Dykes was the set up of the locker room, which has changed dramatically. “I used to be next to a linebacker and a defensive player. On both sides of them was a lineman and a running back,” Brazinski said.
“Now, all the O-linemen are in one section, all the D-linemen are in one section. We can garner our own energy and get pumped up. When we know it's going to be a big, a run-heavy day, we can really – as offensive linemen – get rah-rah and get ready to go out and tee off on the defense. We hope that they do the same for us to get us better.”
One added note:
Having suffered an ACL injury around this time last year, Brazinski was also kind enough to give us an update on his health. “I had my surgery on April 20th, 2012. I think I was injured two weeks before that, on Holy Thursday. I remember going to Good Friday and Easter Sunday in a suit, with a brace on, crutching it down in Newman Hall…it was a mess. “I'm glad the Lord blessed me and made sure that the timing was like this.”“The only thing I can tell you is that I feel really good. I feel like I'm moving well. There's always more you can pick up, but right now, I feel really good.”