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New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Jeff Braun to start at center

Jeff Braun will make his second career start at center when West Virginia takes on Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Braun has been preparing to start at center for the West Virginia Mountaineers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl since the team learned last week that starting center Joe Madsen will be academically ineligible. West Virginia will take on the Syracuse Orangemen on Saturday.

In another way, Braun has been preparing to start at center for years. The fifth-year senior has started games at tackle and guard, but has continued to practice at center. With Braun moving over to center, Pat Eger will take over at right guard.

Braun has not played center in a game since 2009, but insists he is up to the challenge, he told the Daily Mail:

"For me, it's been like riding a bike. I snapped my whole senior year (of high school), so once I got the ball back in my hands, snapping it came naturally for me. I'm not worried about that."

Aside from the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl against NC State, when he was also ruled academically ineligible, Madsen has started every game at center for the Mountaineers since 2009.

The offensive line has been crucial to WVU's passing and rushing attack this season. QB Geno Smith was sacked just 17 times all season, which is second-lowest among quarterbacks who also threw for at least 4000 yards. The ground game became more effective in the last three games of the season, when the Mountaineers averaged 312 rushing yards per game.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.