West Virginia's Braun center of attention in return to old position

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NEW YORK -- Jeff Braun last snapped the ball at center for West Virginia as a redshirt freshman in mop-up duty against East Carolina.

This Saturday, Braun, now a senior, will be front and center from the opening snap at Yankee Stadium, sliding from guard to replace Joe Madsen for the Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse. Madsen was ruled academically ineligible for the game.

"I view it as a challenge. I'm excited for it, honestly. It's an opportunity for me to show off another skill set and get out there and be able to perform well," said Braun.

West Virginia finally made it outside Thursday and practiced on the turf at Fordham University in the Bronx after practicing in a hotel ballroom Wednesday.

Practice was open to the media for 20 minutes, but a handful of players gave interviews, including Braun, sleeveless in 37-degree weather to help prepare for the cold weather expected Saturday.

Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh was not made available.

Braun said the skill came back very quickly, and he needed about six snaps with quarterback Geno Smith before he was delivering the ball sharply.

"I've known if Joey were to go down or something were to happen I was the next man up at center," said Braun, 6 feet 5 and 316 pounds. "I've been practicing for five years now. I'm used to it. It's nothing new, so I just keep going with that."

Braun said he can generally see better from the guard position, but feels confident he can help identify blitz schemes.

"I think I'll be able to do it. The difference is at guard I'm able to see it a little better. I'm back off the ball and, sometimes, I can get my head up," said Braun. "At center, you're on the ball, and it's harder to see everything I can see at guard.

"I think we should be just fine seeing it."

Braun said that's a challenge that will require help from his veteran teammates, including Smith. Every offensive player is mindful of Syracuse's defense.

"You've got to understand what you're doing at every play. With this team, you have to understand where the blitz is coming from," said Braun.

Coach Dana Holgorsen never confirmed Braun's move to center, but Braun and his teammates have over the past two days.

Braun said he has known he will start at center since last week in Morgantown and was able to take live snaps in at least four full practices before arriving Christmas night in New York City.

Braun said he had not spoken to Madsen since arriving in New York but feels for his buddy. "I'm sure it's tough. I mean I haven't spoken to him. I know it's tough for him, and he didn't want to go through this."

Madsen also was academically ineligible for the Champs Sports Bowl in 2010.

Pat Eger is expected to slide into Braun's role at right guard.

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Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.


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