MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Right before spring football was set to start at West Virginia, offensive line coach Dave Johnson had a look at his depth chart and saw starters coming back at four positions, but no one coming back at right tackle.
Worse yet, the candidates hadn't played much football for the Mountaineers. Some hadn't played at all.
And then there was Jeff Braun, hardly the most experienced option after playing no more than 11 plays in any of the 11 games he was in as a redshirt freshman last season, but someone Johnson still thought highly of after taking him in as a converted defensive lineman.
Trouble was, Braun played a backup role at center and guard. Tackle would be new for Braun, but tackle could also be good for Braun.
"He said with my speed and my size, it might be a little better for me," Braun said.
With that, Braun became WVU's tentative starter when preseason practice started Aug. 7.
WVU has just two open starting positions to address. With sophomore Geno Smith set at quarterback, Braun and redshirt freshman Pat Eger are waging the only battle for a starting spot on offense.
"At this point, Jeff has the upper hand," Coach Bill Stewart said. "He's getting better, but has a way to go. That right tackle spot, as I said before, is not as solid as the other four positions, but it's gaining."
So, too, is Braun, who had his moments in Saturday's scrimmage in pass- and run-blocking, but also let speedy defensive end Bruce Irvin by on two third-down plays that resulted in sacks.
Still, Braun has discovered he has skills that suit the position, as Johnson suggested, and that he's also pretty good at it.
"I love it," he said. "I was nervous last spring with the speed of the game and how fast the guys are over there, but once I went over there and tried a few passes, it was OK.
"The main thing I was worried about was the pass game. The run game I wasn't worried about because it's a little easier to go against smaller guys. You're going up against defensive ends. Even though there's a lot of responsibility for a tackle, you're not going up against the big nose guards and defensive tackles who beat on you the whole time."
Braun is as a familiar with those bullies as he is with position changes. He started for three years on both the offensive and defensive lines at Winters Mill High in Westminster, Md., and was regarded as one of the better linemen outside the metro area. In 2007, he was a unanimous pick for the Associated Press first-team Class 1A-2A offensive line as a center.
He figured he'd play defensive line at WVU, which he actually preferred since he rather liked throwing smaller offensive linemen around when he was in high school.