LIVE OAK, Fla. — There will be a rather large hole in Suwannee’s offensive line next year.
The Bulldogs — well, anybody really — will have a tough time filling the spot vacated by offensive lineman Josh Braun, who will sign with Georgia on the Dec. 18 early National Signing Day.
“Next guy up,” SHS coach Kyler Hall said with some dry humor. “There’s not another 6-foot-7, 350-pound guy, but the young guys coming up have to step up.
“It’ll be a big miss there for sure.”
Suwannee, though, will have at least one more game with the 4-star recruit that Georgia fans have dubbed “The Brauntosaurus.” The Bulldogs close out the regular season Friday, fittingly in Georgia when they visit Dublin. But Braun would like to see the season extended with a playoff game.
“I want to finish the season relatively injury free,” he added was another goal.
Braun described his style as “nasty,” and Hall lauded his “…aggressiveness. It’s a mismatch for the other teams we play.”
Braun said he modeled his style of play after his two brothers who have played college ball, Trey and Parker.
“We use his skill and size to move the ball,” Hall said. “We have a good offensive line, obviously Josh is a huge part of it.
“There’s not too many defensive linemen at the high school level that can match up with him.”
Braun also has high academic abilities and goals; he is a National Merit Scholar semifinalist and was named Homecoming King earlier this fall.
“He had offers from all over the country, and he did his due diligence in researching the schools and he’ll thrive at Georgia,” Hall said.
His father, Suwannee Athletic Director Mike Braun, and Josh Braun started with a list of about 15 schools.
“In the course of his sophomore and junior years most of those schools came to visit and we gauged their interest and we picked about 10 schools to visit,” Mike Braun said. “The only school I added was Southern Cal because my family is from there.”
Braun liked the recruitment process; seeing the dissimilarities in cultures and schools.
“I enjoyed it, it allowed me to see places I’d never been before. We went out to California to visit the University of California and Stanford. I was able to see where my grandfather grew up and his family. It was interesting to see a place completely foreign to me, especially compared to Florida. They’re similar with beach towns but it is a completely different demographic,” he said. “It was also interesting to see how the academics and athletic programs and their priorities were different.”
After the West Coast trip the visits were mostly local, visiting Clemson, Alabama, Florida State, Florida, Miami and Georgia.
But two main criteria the Brauns’ sought stuck out in their search for the best school for Josh.
“What we were looking for was a strong academic school that would give Josh a chance to grow as a National Merit Scholar,” Mike Braun said. “And we looked for a school that could play football at a high level with a good offensive line coach and narrowed it down to three.”
The three were Florida, South Carolina and Georgia, and over the past summer they visited all three and chose Georgia.
Josh Braun added other factors for choosing Georgia, which is located in Athens.
“I really liked the town, Athens is beautiful,” he said. “My brother has visited there a lot, and he said it was a really cool to hang out and there’s different stuff to do on the weekends plus it’s proximity to Atlanta would be beneficial to me.”
He wants to study risk management and international business and there are a lot of internship possibilities in business in Atlanta.
At Suwannee, Braun has been a 4-year starter — “ever since the first day,” Hall said — but it will be a greater challenge playing at the highest level in college football.
“It’s a very different game at the next level, so he’s got to keep the work ethic and work attitude up to get better,” Mike Braun said.
Josh Braun said he is currently trying to “understand” how different playing college football will be.
“It’s going to be much harder than I’ll anticipate,” he said. “I’m trying to get ready mentally and then physically as well as I can, and I’m going to get in there and work my tail off.”
Georgia’s offensive line is coached by Sam Pittman, who is the highest paid offensive line coach in college football according to 24/7 Sports and who is attracting a lot of top prospects to play on his line.
That unit is on the honor roll for the 2019 midseason Joe Moore Award, which is given to the best offensive line unit in college football.
“I liked his demeanor, how he carried himself, and his personality was a fit with me,” Josh Braun said of Pittman. “How he treated his players and how he interacted with them on the field was interesting and I appreciated it. From that standpoint, that’s where him and I clicked.”
Braun will graduate this December will leave for Georgia in January. Before then, though, he is working hard now to improve, and also pointed out the experience he provides for the team.
“I want to get stronger in the weight room, get faster, and get leaner. I want my knowledge of the game to increase,” he said, and on playing the line: “I love it, it’s the funnest thing to do. “I was on the team that beat Ribault to tie for the district title; only two other guys from that team are on the current team.”
Hall said he has seen Josh Braun get stronger and better, echoing the players thoughts on development.
“I think without a doubt he’s gotten better, but he’s nowhere near where he’s going to be. It’s kinda scary to think about it,” Hall said. “But the thing with him is he’s a worker, a learner, he’s going to ask questions, he’s a student of the game, so his best years are still ahead of him.”
Josh Braun added: “I certainly hope so. I hope I can develop and become the best I can be.”