Last winter, Winters Mill (Md.) standout lineman Jeff Braun enjoyed a visit to West Virginia so much that he decided to give an early verbal commitment. But Braun has since decided he’d like to keep the University of Maryland open as an option, and a recent visit to Terps summer camp only reinforced that notion.
“I wasn’t too [knowledgeable about] the program until I went to camp, and it was a nice atmosphere and I really enjoyed it … It was the first time I was exposed to the coaches and I really liked them,” said Braun, a powerful 6-foot-5, 319-pound rising senior who would have been recruited by many major conference schools had he not committed early.
“I always thought I committed too early, and Maryland has always been on my checklist. Right now I’m reviewing things,” he said. “I think they want to keep me in state.”
Braun is ranked the No. 31 defensive tackle in the nation. While some schools, such as Boston College, attempted to recruit him on the offensive side, he’s set on playing defensive tackle. Maryland has told him he can play either side. Last year he had 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks while playing about 50 percent of the defensive snaps, so as to stay fresh for his primarily role at offensive tackle.
Braun’s playing weight is somewhere in the 300 to 310-pound range, but he’s not immobile. He recently vertical jumped 27 inches and ran a 5.4-second 40-yard dash, which impressed the Terps’ coaches, he said.
“I think they saw that even though I weight 319, I can still move pretty well,” he said.
He also has the power and motor to take on multiple blockers without giving up ground. He bench presses 400 pounds, cleans 300 and dead lifts well over 500.
“Jeff is one of those young men that’s blessed with incredible size, and has the motor to go with it. He’s a legit 6-5 and couple pounds over 300. And most significantly, he also has a great work ethic. Football is the main thing in his life, and his dream has always been to play in Division I. He’s the kind of player that only comes along once every 20 years or so,” Winters Mill coach Ken Johnson told BlueGoldNews.com after the WVU commitment.
“I knew Jeff was a special kind of kid, but linemen are sometimes harder to uncover [in the recruiting process], because skill guys put up the numbers. Linemen are under the radar a little bit. But he went to some local combines and scored well on the agility tests and drills there. Every place he has gone, people said, ‘Whoa, where did this kid come from?’ Johnson said.
There’s another angle to the story: Braun is friendly with Francis Scott Key (Md.) lineman John Bassler, who has offers from Maryland and West Virginia.
“Me and him have been talking about it and I think wherever we go, we’ll go together. We have a pretty good friendship … Also, my teammate John Hopkins is going to Maryland as a preferred walk-on, and that is affecting my decision,” Braun said.
So what has been the WVU staff’s take on Braun re-considering his early verbal commitment?
“They understand. They know I’m a Maryland guy and I want to make sure,” he said.
As far as Maryland's coaches, Braun has been very impressed. He said of Ray Rychleski, his primary recruiter: "He's a great guy." And Terps defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo made a lasting impression as well.
"He seems very young, he loves the game, he knows the game, he shows emotion and he loves the Terps. I really respect those things."
Braun added he will not consider any other schools and he plans to make his decision during or after his senior season.
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