Smith Confident in Braun Playing Center - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Smith Confident in Braun Playing Center

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Joe Madsen has always been known as the class clown of sorts on the West Virginia football team.

When the cameras were on him, he would show off, always ready with a quip or a joke or some sort of action to bring a smile and a great bit of b-roll for television. When the cameras turned off, by all accounts, he remained the same type of person behind the scenes.

His presence at Mountaineer practices and in the meeting room and at team meals helped to lift spirits and keep the mood light, but at some point, all class clowns must learn when to get serious about class.

For the second time in his career, Madsen was unable to fulfill his academic requirements and join his teammates in their bowl game. Now, as a fifth year senior, his absence signifies the end of his time as a collegiate football player.

Dana Holgorsen acknowledged that Joe Madsen will miss the bowl game after being deemed academically ineligible after the news broke earlier on Wednesday.

"It's disappointing that he didn't take care of business," said Holgorsen. "The expectation for our guys is to go to class, get good grades and leave West Virginia with a quality education and a degree. Joey fell short of that and we're disappointed that he did."

Holgorsen wouldn't divulge any of his plan to replace the senior center, but his quarterback apparently wasn't told to maintain the same level of secrecy. Geno Smith, when asked what being without Madsen would mean for his offense, spoke with confidence about his starting right guard.

"Braun's a guy who has pretty much started at every position on offensive line and we expect him to carry his weight, as he always does," Smith said of starting right guard Jeff Braun. "I have tremendous faith in Jeff Braun. It's unfortunate that Joey wasn't here to be with us our senior year, but that's really his fault, so he can't blame anyone but himself. "

So according to Smith, the senior guard will replace the senior center and the rest of the line will likely fall into place with Pat Eger moving to right guard and Nick Kindler taking the right tackle position.

Syracuse defensive coordinator Scott Shafer is plenty familiar with Madsen, having game planned against him in recent years as the teams faced off in Big East play. When asked about what losing Madsen would do to West Virginia's offense, he downplayed the news, but his lack of knowledge regarding who would step in for the starter disproved his own point.

"I'm sure that Bassier is a good football player as well," Shafer said, referring to back-up center John Bassler, whose name he mispronounced while reading it from a WVU roster that lay before him.

"He's a big kid. 6-4, 308 [pounds] they've got him listed at and he's been around, played a lot of football. He's also a redshirt senior, I think, so they've got good football players over there. They've done a good job recruiting and like I said, we'll have our hands full," Shafer continued.

As genuine as his remarks about Bassler may or may not have been, Shafer clearly had admiration and respect for what he had seen from Madsen on film and in person through previous seasons. He is wholly unaware of who WVU would replace its center with.

So it will be on Braun – or Bassler or whoever Holgorsen would have you believe has a chance at the job – to step up for the kid out of Ohio with arms like a tyrannosaurus rex.

He may not have the humor of his fellow lineman or the experience at the position, but he has the confidence of his quarterback. Connect on the first few exchanges of the game, and that confidence will grow.

Losing a senior leader who has been the cornerstone of the offensive line will hurt, but the Mountaineers are plugging the pieces together to soften the blow as much as they cane.

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