Hometown: Westminster, MD
Record: 28-11, Bowl Record: 1-2
Big Jeff Braun came to Morgantown, WV in the spring of 2008 following West Virignia’s impressive performance in the Fiesta Bowl. Braun is a jack of all trades along the offensive line for the Mountaineers. He came to Morgantown as a defensive tackle, but switched to right tackle early in his career. Since he has become a starter in 2010, he has played right tackle, right guard, and most recently, left guard. He was forced into service at left guard last season due to the season-ending injury suffered by Josh Jenkins. He had some issues with the switch early on last season as evidenced by WVU’s inability to run the football. This season, he will be sent back to right guard, which seems to be his most natural position. With a healthy Jenkins back and Braun playing in a more comfortable position, the expectations of this offensive line group are high for the 2012 campaign.
Memorable Game: Jeff got his first taste of left guard during this past season’s Friends of Coal Bowl. The Mountaineers came into the game versus Marshall looking to show off their new high flying offense. Marshall was looking for its first win over the Mountaineers since the two first played each other in 1911. West Virginia’s offense would struggle to find its rhythm early, giving Marshall an early 7-0 lead. Braun and the offensive linemen would settle in to their new configuration after the first quarter, giving Geno Smith ample time to pick apart a weak Herd secondary. While the Mountaineers could never get the running game going, they were able to move the ball effectively through the air. The game would suffer a major delay due to lightning. Preceding the lightning strikes, Tavon Austin would run a kick back for a touchdown, leaving the Herd “thunderstruck.” Ultimately, the electric storm would force the game to be officially called during the third quarter, giving the Mountaineers a 34-13 win over Marshall.
Competition: Braun gets the nod for his versatility along the offensive line as well as for the great potential he has for his senior season. Other solid linemen considered here were Jeremy Hines and Kevin Koken. Another honorable mention here is linebacker/defensive end Zach Cooper.
Teaser: Well by now, I’m sure most of my readers are tired of reading about offensive linemen. Good news, there are only two more of them in the countdown. Tomorrow, we will spotlight a linebacker from the early 90s. He was not exactly the kind of player would think of as being a blue collar, brown bag lunch guy. He was a much more flashy, cunning player that would make sure to let opposing players know when he had out played them. Talking about 90s and out maneuvering other players makes me reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.