OXFORD, Ohio - Pat Hinkel's switch from safety to linebacker is already paying off for the Miami University football team.

The senior intercepted two passes in the RedHawks' first win of the season against Southern Illinois Saturday. He ran the first pick 24 yards into the endzone to put Miami up 14-7 at halftime and the second set up another score in the third.

"It was kind of Christmas came early," he said after the 30-14 victory.

Hinkel, who played linebacker at St. Ignatius High School in Westlake, can thank defensive coordinator Jay Peterson for his early success. Peterson made the call to move him down into the box during spring ball and Hinkel embraced the change with open arms.

"It's been pretty exciting. I love working with the linebackers," said the sports studies major. "They've done a great job of bringing me in and taking me under their wing. They know I'm going to make mistakes, but they are always open to keep teaching me and staying patient with me."

At 6 feet, 1 inches tall and 205 pounds, one of the main challenges for Hinkel is playing against bigger and stronger competition. There are a lot of mental hurdles as well.

"Pat is just getting better and better every day," Miami linebackers coach Matt Edwards said. "What he brings to the linebacker position from a coverage standpoint, his understanding of safety, is a huge improvement. That's probably why he had the two interceptions last week."

Hinkel has been one of Miami's top defenders during the last two seasons. He tallied 70 total tackles in 2011, fourth best on the team, and finished with 72 tackles in 2010. It comes as no surprise that he has excelled in his new role.

"We wanted to get some more speed down in the box, more athleticism," Edwards said. "Just improve the overall speed of our defense and get the best 11 players out on the field."

Hinkel travels with the RedHawks to play at perennial powerhouse Boise State Saturday.

Kickoff is 4 p.m.

For more Miami University athletics coverage, visit Peter Marx's blog "Marx on Miami" and follow him on Twitter at @RedHawkReMarx.