By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
April 8, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Jeff Braun made it clear to college recruiters that he wanted to play defensive line in college. But things can sometimes change. Today, Braun is working with the West Virginia offensive linemen and right now he is a leading candidate to earn the starting right guard job.
“I was hard headed,” Braun said. “Defensive line in high school was easy with my size and I could just throw people around. Here it’s a lot different. You can’t throw anybody around at all and I didn’t really know that coming here.”
Braun said some discussions with his high school coach really opened his eyes.
“I didn’t have my options open and my high school coach kept telling me to keep my options open because offense might be where you need to be,” Braun said.
So when Mountaineer coach Bill Stewart finally delivered the news that he was moving to O-line, Braun was prepared.
“I didn’t hold any grudges or anything, I just went with it,” Braun said.
What Braun offers West Virginia is an offensive lineman with a defensive player’s mentality. He’s more of a brawler than he is a technical lineman right now, but Dave Johnson is working hard to change that.
“The technique with offensive line at this level is new to me. In high school my technical base wasn’t that much at all. Right now, I feel like I’m working my way up from ground zero because everything seems new to me,” Braun said. “I knew the pass sets in high school, but I never really utilized them like I should because everything was so much easier.
“Right now strength doesn’t always win. (Chris) Nield and Scooter (Berry) can throw me sometimes working against some of the best defensive linemen in the country,” Braun said. “Going against them will help me get better.”
Even when Braun identifies the right person to block there are times when he can’t get to his man because the players he is trying to block are so athletic.
“Sometimes I see my assignment but the linebackers are so fast and that’s another adjustment I had to make - and I need to get better at it and fix what I’m doing wrong as soon as possible,” he said.
Braun said playing offensive line an everyday process, but he is beginning to get more comfortable with his assignments.
“Everyday there is something I see on film I can see on the field with outside zones - we have different calls and different things to do,” Braun said. “Even though I mess it up at times, some other things that come at me I can see myself getting better at.
“I’ve just got to keep working at the little things,” he said. “Coach Johnson emphasizes that every single day.”
The biggest adjustment for Braun is trying to avoid the temptation of modifying his approach. He has always been such an aggressive player.
“You still want to be aggressive as an offensive lineman and that’s one thing I had to learn. Defense I felt like you could go 110 percent speed-wise every play and offense you kind of had to back off sometimes,” he said. “It’s like a controlled aggression sometimes and it’s something you’ve got to learn. I know I can still knock the snot out of somebody on the offensive line just like I can on the defensive line.”
Braun said he isn’t taking anything for granted because he knows his No. 1 spot is always up for grabs.
“I’m trying not to look down the road because tomorrow I could get pulled,” he said. “I’m just trying to learn every day from my experiences. I’m not trying to look at tomorrow or next week, I’m just looking at it right now.”
Davis came to West Virginia as a running back, was moved to wide receiver, and has now been with the secondary for the last two years.
“You never want to give up on a lad because people never gave up on me,” Stewart said. “It’s his time. He needed to step up and it looks like he’s doing it.”
Stewart said Davis is under consideration for some playing time either as a backup defensive back or a special teams player.
“He looks like he’s earning the right to at least get on the field next year,” Stewart said. “Eddie is probably the fastest, if not one of the fastest, guys on the team. All I ever hear about Eddie Davis is that he’s a class guy and that he has great potential. Well, it’s time for potential to become performance.”
Stewart believes if there is any cornerback coach in the country can get it out of Davis, it’s Dave Lockwood.
“We have the greatest cornerback coach in America,” Stewart said.
In addition to field goals, Stewart is looking for someone with enough leg strength to get the football down the field on kickoffs and also be able to place the ball in certain areas to help the coverage team.
Kicking continues to be one of his big concerns.
“All the safeties need to learn more than one position and the coaches wanted me to learn another position because I have the free safety position down,” Sands explained. “At times it gets confusing and sometimes you just have to stop, take a deep breath, and think about your assignment and what you need to do.”
“I had a talk with Selvish after workouts (Sunday) and we just sat down on the couch together,” Stewart said. “I told him how proud I was of him, how much I liked and admired his leadership, and how he has to step up and be the mother hen of that flock.
“The next older guys are Donnie Barclay and Eric Jobe, and neither of them has played a lot.”
Young guards Josh Jenkins and Jeff Braun had a rough afternoon trying to pick up blitzers during Saturday’s scrimmage, but Stewart was pleased with the way they were able to shake that off during goal line drills.
“They could have kept their heads down because they had a hard day,” he said.
“He has a knee hyperextension and I’m hoping that the injury won’t be as serious as we think,” Stewart said.
Stewart said Rader was in the equation for playing time as a second tight end.
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