Braun takes couple steps to right
MORGANTOWN - Jeff Braun knows that West Virginia's football team can't afford to live on January's performance in the Orange Bowl and that eventually the team would be better served to re-adopt an underdog attitude and get back to work.
Still, it's hard not to keep relishing that 70-33 win over Clemson, which is why at least seven or eight times since then he's loaded the DVD and watched it from start to finish.
"I watch it all the time,'' Braun said. "Whenever I get bored at home I say, 'Let's throw the game on.' But we've got to get rid of it eventually, so I'll watch something else soon.''
By all accounts, Braun has already gotten past the glow of that game and gotten back to work. Talk to West Virginia's coaches and they all rave about the progress made by the senior-to-be right guard.
With the return of Josh Jenkins from a season lost to knee surgery, Braun has moved back to right guard from the left guard spot he was forced to play in 2011. It might seem like a minor adjustment, but it's not.
"It's just being right-handed, I think,'' Braun said. "Having my right foot back a little bit and my right hand on the ground is just a little more natural. Plus, early in my career that's where I started playing right tackle. I'm just more comfortable there.''
That comfort has shown in just about every way. Braun is more aggressive, more physical and, perhaps most important of all, more confident.
"The thing with him is confidence. He's in a position right now that's his natural position,'' said second-year offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. "In the outside world, you think you can move from one position to another and be a great player, but that's not the case. Some people are more natural on the left side and some people are more natural on the right side. His best position and most natural position is right guard and center. He's comfortable and confident where he is now.''
That seems a million miles away from where Braun was at this time last year. He had shoulder surgery in January and didn't even take part in spring drills. He was ticketed for the spot at right guard, but could only study the position from afar in a new offensive scheme and under a new set of coaches. Then, after studying right guard and watching others play the position in the spring, Jenkins blew out his knee at the end of spring drills. When Braun was healthy and ready to go in the fall, he bounced around from the right side to the left while the coaches tried to figure out their best combination.
"We'd work him at right guard at times because we had to move guys around, but he was a different player at right guard,'' Bedenbaugh said. "It's one of those things that we had to keep him at left guard and it's a different position. He's back now and he's where he needs to be.''
Unlike a year ago, he's getting practical experience in the spring.
"[Last year] I knew what to do from an X's and O's standpoint, but I didn't have the reps in the spring. I had to go out there in the fall and catch up with everybody,'' Braun said. "Now that I know what to expect and kind of know what the coaches want us to do, it's easier.''
With only Saturday's Gold-Blue game remaining in this spring's drills, Braun and the line seem to be coming together. But aside from the X's and O's and the continuity, there's one other thing the offensive line is trying to accomplish.
"One thing we've tried to do is get a nastiness about us,'' Braun said. "We want to be the most physical group we can be and put people on the ground. I think we've been doing that.''
It begins with an autograph session with the players from 1 to 2:45 p.m. at the indoor practice facility, then moves outside to the west side of the stadium for a concert featuring Taylor Made.
An old-timers game in the stadium will begin at 5:30 p.m. and as many as 200 former players are expected to be present. The scrimmage itself begins at 6 p.m.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.