After head coach Dave Doeren was asked Monday about the young players who played prominent roles this season, one of the names that Doeren expanded upon was redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Joe Thuney.
That's only natural. Thuney started every game this season, playing 835 snaps, third highest on the squad. What's unique about Thuney was that he was expected to be the center. Late in preseason camp he moved to guard, but an injury to starting right tackle Tyson Chandler, a redshirt junior, moved Thuney there for the season opener.
Thuney was back at right guard in the second game, but when senior left tackle Rob Crisp was lost for the year, Thuney made the move to fill the void, playing left tackle the last eight contests.
"This is his first year as a full-time starter, and he played every position," Doeren noted about Thuney. "After another year in the weight room, his knowledge of the game and ability to play fast is going to be pretty significant for us next year, I think, particularly if we are able to move him inside."
"Wherever they tell me to do, I'll do it," Thuney added.
Thuney has grown more confident after his first full season as a starter. In particular he has learned the fine art of game preparations.
"This game is played at a pretty high level, and the more film you can watch and notes you can get, the better off you are going to be going into games," Thuney noted. "During practice you can't take any plays off. If you prepare the right way, you can play the right way.
"I think once you become a starter, you have to step up even more just to set an example for some of the younger guys."
Thuney admitted that it feels "a little bit" weird to take a leadership role even though he himself is a redshirt sophomore, but he found himself growing more comfortable with becoming more vocal.
He also thought the offensive line found its comfort zone after a rough start during which they were trying to piece together its best five.
"Our chemistry has built throughout the year," Thuney noted. "It took a little a bit to adjust from the beginning. We've found our place. We like working together, blocking together. It's all starting to come together."
Thuney's main focus this week is "ending the season on a high note." Then he'll turn his attention to adding some more weight and continuing to become a student of the game, preparing for next year, no matter where he lines up.