Last year, 6-2, 280-pound center Blair Tushaus was honing his craft as a scout team center. This year he’s been front and center on the first team unit facing the likes of senior nose guard Romney Fuga or 6-2, 305-pound junior J.C transfer Maquese Johnson.
“Personally I feel like my performance is far away from where I want it,” Tushaus said. “Am I making progress? Yes, I am. Am I doing the things necessary to be that guy? I can obviously do more and hopefully I can do that and prove to those guys, my teammates, that I will solidify the center position.”
While many of the players currently on the first team offensive line in spring camp have played various positions over the past season and throughout spring, the one player that has focused on a single position is Blair Tushaus.
“From the moment I stepped foot at this campus, I don’t think I’ve taken one rep at guard and I don’t think I’m a tackle,” Tushaus said with a laugh. “I’m not tall enough for that! I played center all four years while I was in high school and I don’t think I’m going to venture out to guard or tackle any time soon.”
Last season, Houston Reynolds played left guard prior to a shoulder injury. Braden Hansen- who gave reassurance he’ll stick to left guard or tackle- was asked by Coach Weber to switch to center. Manaaki Vaitai played left guard on the scout team last year and is now playing right guard in spring camp. However, he too has been practicing at the center position over spring. There is a good chance the offense might not know who will start at center come fall camp.
“I guess we won’t know until later,” Tushaus said with a laugh. “I think having too many guys versus having too few guys is a good problem to have. Ryan Freeman can play center and Manaaki Vaitai can play center. Manaaki has been doing really well, really well. He hasn’t taken as many reps at center and then he comes out and starts taking reps and does really well at center. There’s a lot of guys that play center and that’s good.”
However, because Tushaus has only focused his efforts at the center position, where he’s taken all of his reps, one has to believe he’s the front runner to secure the starting position.
“We’ll see how spring goes first, but yeah, hopefully it transfers over into fall,” Tushaus said. “Then hopefully it will transfer over from fall and into the season. I have a lot to prove but hopefully that’s how things work out.”
While Tushaus might have the edge on the rest, nothing is certain and he knows it.
“Coaches will go into their secret chambers and talk, and, you know, we never know what they talk about,” Tushaus said. “I don’t know when it will be decided and probably at the last moment. As far as what I need to do is just grind every single play every single day and prove to my teammates- just as much to Coach Weber- that I can do it.”
In order to be “that guy,” the redshirt sophomore knows that on top of taking care of his position requirements, he must also prove to the rest of the o-line that he can be trusted to make the right reads and make the right calls.
“As a center you have to make the right calls, point out who has who and so it becomes more of a trust factor between you and the players while doing your assignments,” Tushaus said. “There’s a lot to it as a center as far as proving what you need to do while handling all the responsibilities the position demands while protecting the quarterback.”
Given those responsibilities, Tushaus is making an effort to watch more film than the others in contention to further understand everyone’s role- from the lineman to the running backs- within every given play. His reasoning is to not only show he’s head and shoulders above the rest, but that he can be trusted by his coaches and teammates to get the job done.
“I have to do more film room study and know all the assignments,” Tushaus said. “Even knowing what the running backs do, I have to know. You wouldn’t think that a center needs to know what the backs are going to do within a specific call or play, but you do and it’s important to know the concepts of the play. Just going in on a Saturday when you’re not supposed to, or calling up guys to study or review film, is something I have to do the most.
“I don’t know if you can tell or not, but this year we’re taking more of an up-tempo, in shape approach to our lineman. I have to prove to the rest of the guys on our line that I can be that guy who can show the kind of leadership you’re looking for at the center position by telling guys, ‘Hey, let’s go!’ or ‘Hurry up and get on the line!’ and really push the higher tempo we’re looking for while being sound. Can I be better at it? Of course I can, but I think we’ve been doing a really good job at what’s expected so far.”