Calming Influence

A more relaxed atmosphere is prevailing at the Puskar Center under new head coach Bill Stewart, according to one of West Virginia's football verbal commitments.

"It just seemed like things were a little calmer," defensive line commitment Jeff Braun said after a weekend visit to the West Virginia campus. "There were a lot of people there visiting, but it seemed more relaxed."

Braun was one of the contingent to make a visit to West Virginia this weekend, and the long-time WVU commit didn't see anything at all that would dissuade him from his choice of West Virginia. Other than the slightly changed atmosphere and the demands on the time of Stewart since he was elevated to the head coaching spot, Braun saw no major changes in West Virginia operations.

When Coach Stewart was an assistant, he had more time to spend with me, because he was my recruiting coach," Braun observed. "Now that he's the head guy, that's different, but I understand that. Plus, he knows I'm solid, so he doesn't have to sell the program to me."

Braun noted that while the basics of the visit stayed the same, there were a few differences.

"They fed us a lot," he laughed. "We got to sit down with everyone – coaches, players and staff – and eat together. We had the chance to meet other players and the new coaches, and that all went well. I also got the chance to talk to some of the professors in my major – I'm going to study exercise physiology – and get a look at everything there."

Braun also got the chance to meet some of the new coaches.

The coaches that stayed are the ones that I will be working with the most, so the changes didn't really affect me at all," the well-spoken Maryland product noted. "Coach Stewart, Coach Kirelawich and Coach Casteel are all still there, so that didn't bother me. But I did get to meet some of the new coaches. Coach Beatty visited me at home recently, and I met the new coach from Wake Forest too. They have a lot of energy."

Braun was hosted on his visit by offensive lineman John Bradshaw, and along with fellow verbal commitment and visitor John Bassler, hung out with the offensive linemen for most of the weekend.

"We hung out with Stephen Maw and Bradshaw and some of the other linemen, and that was a little weird because those are the guys I will be banging heads with when I come to WVU," laughed Braun, who will start out as a defensive lineman. "But that was o.k. It was good to get to know some of them beforehand. We had a good time."

The highlight of the trip for Braun was the trip to the Coliseum to catch the basketball game against Georgetown.

Man, they should have called goaltending," said Braun, who took in the game with great interest. "It was a great game, and the atmosphere there was great."

Braun didn't jut watch the game from a fan's perspective, however. For the first time in his school career, he is playing basketball, so he took in the battle, especially the play in the lane, with an eye toward picking up some pointers.

"I'm playing basketball for the first time and having a lot of fun doing it," said Braun. "I needed to get away from football for a little bit, because our team didn't have the best season. I got frustrated with it, because not everyone put everything into it the way I did. I decided I needed to do something else to clear my head, so I decided to play basketball.

"I didn't know anything about playing, but after a few weeks things have started to come together," said Braun, who mans the post position for Winters Mill. "At my weight (320 lbs.) I wasn't sure how much I could bang around and use it, so that held me back for a while. I watch Hibbert and Smalligan in the game, and that gave me an idea of how far I can go and how much I can do."

Of course, unless the Maryland high school leagues allow contact like the Big East, Braun might be picking up a few more fouls, but that's not a concern. A very competitive individual, Braun was clearly frustrated with the way his senior high school season turned out, and wanted to make sure that he was mentally ready for the challenges that await him in his collegiate football career. He had considered graduating early and enrolling at WVU in January, but discussions with Stewart, and careful consideration of his situation, led him to stay in high school until June.

"I thought about it a lot, but I wanted to be sure I was ready to go when I went to college, and I felt like I needed this break from football," said the heady Braun. "I am having a lot of fun playing basketball, and I can tell it has already helped. It's also let me work on my footwork, and I can see the difference there too. I fell like I'm quicker."


Braun and Bassler, who played against each other in high school, have quickly formed a bond. The pair will likely meet up on Signing Day to finalize their letters of intent and get them shipped off to West Virginia.

"I can't wait to get that over with and make everything official," Braun said. "We're getting the details worked out now."

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