Five Play Prospect: Gators OL Joshua Braun Scouting Report
As the GatorMaven "Five Play Prospect" series continues - breaking down each of Florida's early signings with a five play scouting report - it's time to take a deep dive on the four offensive linemen headed to Gainesville.
It was crucial for offensive line coach John Hevesy to land a handful of linemen as the Gators have struggled within their run blocks in 2019, and there wasn't any proven depth behind the starting five.
Joshua Braun, a 6-6, 356 lb. offensive line prospect from Suwannee High School (Live Oak, FL) is a major part of the Gators' haul in the trenches. Braun flipped to Florida days before the early signing period, backing off of a commitment to Georgia when the Bulldogs' former offensive line coach Sam Pittman took the Arkansas head coaching gig.
A mauler, Braun should help shore up Florida's run game when he's ready to take the field. Let's get to the film room and see everything that Braun packs into his game.
One thing that consistently shows up in Braun's film is his drive: He loves playing physically and finishing blocks.
In the clip above, Braun is quick to shoot his hands into the defensive end's chest, winning the pad level battle immediately following the snap and getting into position to drive this block out.
The defensive end is never able to obtain any leverage on a run to his side, as Braun totally wipes out the edge and takes the defensive end for a ride into the turf.
For a high school prospect standing at 6-6, 350 lbs., facing defensive ends that are far smaller than what he'll face at the college level, Braun's initial pad level as a run blocker is impressive.
Braun maintains a low center of gravity while stepping forward and shooting his hands, keeping his shoulders beneath those of the defensive ends as he engages his block. He gets in a solid initial punch and extension, and resets his arms to get his hands inside the edge defender's chest.
At that point, the DE has been knocked off balance, pushed back, and lost all hand control through the rep, and Braun has won with ease. Once again, Braun drives out and finishes this play with the defensive end in the dirt.
Pulls and combo blocks
Two major components of the power run game that were absent from Florida's during the 2019 season are good pulling and combo blocks. Braun, surprisingly for his size, is pretty good at both.
Above, we begin with a pull block as Braun plays left guard. Post-snap, Braun moves across the formation on a QB power read, climbing the play-side C-gap to clear out the second level. He keeps his eyes upfield through the entire pull, which is necessary technique in order to angle towards and set up blocks.
With daylight ahead via Braun's pull and the double-team block on the 3-technique defensive tackle, the QB keeps the ball, follows Braun through the gap, and picks up a nice gain.
Combo blocks will also be crucial for improvement in Florida's run game, another department in which Braun is skilled in.
There are little bits and pieces to this block that make it so good. It starts with, once again, Braun winning the pad level battle at the time of initial contact, even though he has to step further into his block out in space against a standing edge rusher.
That immediate eliminates leverage opportunities for the edge to shed the block, while Braun goes to work on finishing it. He gets his outside hand to pop the middle of the defensive end's chest, while using his inside hand to push the DE's inside shoulder.
That shoulder push angles the edge defender's body away from the direction of the run, allowing the running back to cut outside. In the process of that, Braun has created a lane for himself to shoot to the second level and begin the combo block.
He keeps his left arm extended into the defensive end's chest to maintain his first block until the running back has daylight, displaying great mental processing and multi-tasking. At that point, Braun goes full steam ahead and delivers a blow to the linebacker, knocking him out of his pursuit.
These types of blocks are vital in the power run game. Absolutely vital. Florida didn't have someone they could consistently rely on with pulls and combo blocks in 2019 - Braun's polish in both areas could earn him early playing time.
I wanted to dive in on pass protection here, but Braun's film is primarily composed of run game tape - Suwannee ran the ball 394 times compared to only 141 pass attempts (and a mere 58 completions) in 2019, making the sample size too small to judge.
However, and it's clear to see in other clips of Braun finishing blocks: He loves to finish plays and won't stop until the whistle blows.
On the rep above, Braun is simply responsible with kicking the edge rusher out of the run play, He opens on a 45-degree set and allows the defensive end to dictate his first move, so long as the end keeps getting wide - which he attempts to by trying to bend around Braun.
Braun gets his outside hand into the defensive ends chest and gives him a shove, totally eliminating him from the run play about eight yards behind the line.
The running back, at that point, runs into congestion about 10 yards upfield from Braun's position, and he hustles back into action to clear out space. He launches himself into an area of about four defends and absolutely lays one out.
The running back attempted to follow Braun, but at that point the run was swarmed. Still, you love to see this effort and drive from the young offensive lineman.
Obviously, the lack of pass protection might cause some discomfort with the idea of Joshua Braun playing early in his career at Florida, but that will come with development under Hevesy. His 45-degree set on the final clip provides a floor for pass sets.
As for now, Braun has run blocking techniques and mental processing in the run game down. and is ready to apply them immediately. That's why he enrolled early and began practicing with the team in December.
Not to mention, Braun's positional versatility should do him even more favors. He carries experience at both tackle and guard spots, which allows him to compete for more reps and different starting positions - all while providing valuable depth across the line.
Those traits, paired with his frame and versatility, can get Braun on the field early for the Gators. And when it comes to Florida's run blocking, they'll need him to.