Perfect Fit

From the first time he laid eyes on West Virginia University, defensive lineman Jeff Braun knew he wanted to be a Mountaineer.

Braun took the deciding step in fulfilling that wish on Saturday when he became the second junior to commit to WVU's football recruiting class of 2008. Earlier this year, Parkersburg (W. Va.) High School's Josh Jenkins became the first member of that class.

"I came down to the PrepStar combine they had in 2005 and I saw how beautiful everything was there, so I decided to really look into West Virginia," Braun told in an exclusive interview. "Then I cam down again for football camp this past summer, and I knew I wanted to come to WVU.

"My intention was to get better for high school, and get better techniques that I could use to make myself better, but I also saw a lot about [West Virginia] too."

At the camp, and in the recruiting process, Braun met a kindred spirit in West Virginia defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich, who instructed Braun during summer camp at WVU and quickly became aware of the rising junior's burgeoning ability.

"Kirlav is a great coach," Braun said. "He knows how to push people and help them improve. He pushed me to my limit at camp, and he knows just how to do it. He gives you praise when you earn it, and he'll tell you what he did wrong, too. I took back a lot of what he told me, and it helped me a lot this year.

"For example, he worked a lot with me on pass rush skills -- faking one way and going the other. I had never used that before," Braun related. "He taught me how to club guys away, to get rid of the lineman in front of you. I used that a lot this year, and got into the backfield and made a lot of tackles."

In addition to Kirelawich, Braun also connected with Mountaineer assistant Bill Stewart, who handles Maryland in his recruiting duties.

"Coach Stewart is just a genuine guy," said Braun, paying what may be the ultimate compliment for players who value "keeping it real" above many other traits. "He treated me like a son almost, and I know he will look out for me. He wanted to show me everything about West Virginia, and tell me everything there is to know about the school. He made me more comfortable in learning everything and making my decision."

Braun, who already stands 6-4 and weighs 300 pounds, has played all along the defensive front for Winters Mill High School in Maryland. That resulting experience has helped him with different styles of play and techniques.

"I think I will play on the interior defensive line at West Virginia, but I've played end and tackle in high school. That experience has definitely helped me. It's taught me how to play like a rush end, but also stop up the gaps when I play inside. I feel like I'm a more complete player because I have that experience."

Several other items about West Virginia fell neatly into place with Braun's college aspirations.

"It's close to home, just about a three-hour drive, and I just fell in love with it on game day," he said. The atmosphere, everything about it, it is just a great town. It seemed like the whole state came to the game. I want to play in situations like that – I just love it."

Academics were also a big part of Braun's decision-making process. West Virginia's new football academic center and the support programs the program has in place to assist student-athletes were big checkmarks in favor of WVU, and a focus of Braun's visit. He has an eye on an exercise physiology major with a long-range goal of a career in sports medicine, and indicated that his field of study will allow him a broad range of options once he graduates. He also expects to have no trouble qualifying, as he currently carries a 3.0 GPA.


Braun said WVU's shocking upset loss to South Florida had no effect on his decision.

"I know the type of team WVU is. And the Big East conference is getting tough. You have to be prepared every week to go into a dogfight, and I like that. I love the Big East conference."

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Braun likes the fact that the recruiting process won't be a distraction to him.

"This definitely takes the pressure off. I can go in and think about just high school now, and try to win a state championship I don't have to worry about the college stuff. I can close it now, and concentrate on high school, and keeping my grades up."

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Braun is also a second year wrestler, and says he has learned some things in that sport that help him on the football field.

"My goal in wrestling was to help me with football. I thought it would help my balance, and since the key to wrestling is moving quickly in bursts, that would help too. I know how to get people off me using wrestling moves, and I can get to one place from another more quickly now.

"I also do it to have fun," the good-natured Braun admitted with a laugh. "I like beating guys up sometimes, and this is another way to get that chance."

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