Redshirt Report: Where size, physicality and work ethic meet

Feb 15, 2021 | 0 comments


FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
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Here are 25 ITG Must See features FREE for all to read. From some of our Anonymous Player Q&A sessions to our Behind-the-Scenes look at Florida football. All FREE!

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During the beginning weeks of the off-season, Inside the Gators will take an in-depth look at how last season went for Florida's 2020 signees and transfers. Normally, the focus is on those who redshirted, but since the NCAA mandated that the 2020 season was 'uncounted' as far as eligibility is concerned, essentially every player redshirted.


Today the Redshirt Report series focuses on the freshman season of offensive guard Joshua Braun.

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Florida freshman offensive guard Joshua Braun played his high school ball just an hour north of Gainesville in Live Oak. In 2019, he seemed poised to land in Athens until then-Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman left for Arkansas at the last moment, leaving the door open for the Gators to flip the in-state talent.

Now, a little over a year since that flip, Braun is making his case to be a key cog in the Gators offensive line. And Kyler Hall, his former head coach at Suwannee High School, can’t believe how the time’s gone by so fast.

Being from up the road set up for an easier transition than most. Your support groups like family, friends, and old coaches are closer. It allows a player to see them more often and eases that adaptation. However, Hall knew Braun's the kind of person who'd make the best of any situation.

"He had offers from all over the country, all parts of the country: West Coast, up north, East Coast, down south, Hall said. "Wherever he would have decided to go, it would have been the right decision. And he's just that type of young man."

Another big contributor to the young man's acclimation? A family lineage. Braun's older brothers, Trey and Parker, played offensive line at the Power 5 level. Parker earned All-ACC honors in 2017 and 2018 at Georgia Tech, before transferring and starting all 13 games for Texas as a graduate transfer in 2019. Trey, the oldest, started at left guard for Tech in 2014 and 2015. He ended his career in Atlanta with 34 straight starts.

Additionally, his father Mike played offensive tackle at Army West Point from 1986 to 1989. Meanwhile, his mother Karen played in 112 games for Army West Point’s women’s basketball team where she secured top-10 rankings in several career categories from 1985 to 1989.

Hall even saw Braun’s first practices. Braun’s first practice reps came against the 2019 Gator defense during the team's sessions for the Orange Bowl against Virginia. His performance drew praise from players like linebacker Jonathan Greenard.

According to Hall, Braun does have a knack for making things look easy.

"If you didn't know, you would have never known that kid was just in high school," Hall said. "Just based off the pure size and the eyeball test, he fit right in."

Speaking of size, Braun's got plenty of it. The official Gators 2020 roster lists him at 6-foot-6, 340 pounds. That's a lot of human.

And the results of Nick Savage's strength and conditioning program left Hall taken aback next time he saw Braun.

"When he came back home, I was like 'Good grief,'" Hall said. "He was a man among boys in high school just from the size standpoint and the physicality. But even at that (Southeastern Conference) level he is a large human being. And he is just going to get bigger and he's going to tone up even more

Mentally, he was the same Josh that Hall always knew: never getting too excited, taking things in stride and not getting too overwhelmed. Maybe that combined with his size and versatility as a lineman is why he saw so much playing time as a freshman.

It’s no easy feat for a freshman offensive lineman to see action in 11 SEC games. His high mark for snaps came with an unofficially registered 44 against Georgia plus he notched his first career start two weeks later against the Vanderbilt Commodores. Hall believes that goes to show Braun’s talent level and how quickly he picked up the scheme and blocking assignments.

Not to mention, Braun doesn’t lose any eligibility due to the NCAA’s decision to not count the 2020 season toward that proverbial eligibility clock.

“Not being able to go through a spring practice as a freshman offensive lineman in the SEC, and then go play in high-level games, that's pretty impressive,” Hall remarked. “I think this year couldn't have worked out (better), obviously outside of COVID. But just from a pure student-athlete standpoint, I think it was such a huge advantage for those guys to be able to get this year under their belt and for what’ll be a free year.”

And in the SEC, you’re bound to see plenty of great defensive fronts like the Gators did against Alabama, Texas A&M, and Georgia. Let’s not forget Oklahoma’s front seven either. Additionally, when he didn’t see the field, Braun stayed locked in so he was ready when the Gators called his number. He’ll be ready for the moment whenever he takes the leap to full-time starter.

“When you’re playing the SEC schedule, that’s the best in the country…” Hall said. “…You come in as a true freshman, and you're seeing different fronts and different talents. That just adds to his confidence level.”

Braun played tackle while at Suwannee but saw time at guard for Florida. Hall attributes that to how big a jump it is to go from high school tackle to SEC tackle. People will see the size but, according to Hall, versatility across the line will really up his stock.

Florida opted for a pass-heavy attack with Kyle Trask but it might transition more to the running game given Emory Jones’ dual-threat ability. And —while Hall did see an improvement in Braun’s pass protection in 2020— that change could bode well for someone like Braun who played in a run-heavy offense at Suwannee.

“He’s a mauler,” Hall said. “And if he gets (his) hands on you and them feet are driving there's not much you can do. So, if they do go (with) more of that then it does play to his strengths.”

Hall hopes college football returns to a state of normalcy because true freshmen like Braun haven’t played in front of a packed stadium yet. They haven’t seen the Swamp overflowing with Orange and Blue or the brain-scrambling roar of a packed opposing stadium. Hall wants that for Braun and is looking forward to him being able to experience it.

Coincidentally, one of those hostile environments includes Hall’s alma mater’s arena: Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium. Hall played defensive back at FSU from 2001 to 2005 so there might be some conflict watching Braun play for his school’s rival.

“I want Josh to be successful every week let’s put it that way,” Hall said with a laugh. “When they play (or) when the game gets back like it should be — that'll be a fun week.”

Hall knows Braun will continue to get stronger, learn the playbook inside and out, and get completely ready to play going into next season.

“At that level, everybody's good around you. So, you’ve got to compete day in and day out,” Hall said. “I think he keeps things in perspective very well. He doesn't look too far ahead. He's in the moment and he’s daily trying to get that much better. When you add that on top of his natural talent and abilities and his wisdom (then) the sky's the limit.”

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