On Tuesday, West Virginia Mountaineers’ Head Coach Neal Brown addressed media at Big XII Media Days. Brown first thanked the media for their participation in the event. Then, he expressed his excitement to rejoin the Big XII. After that, he jumped right in to his comments on the Mountaineer program.
Coach Brown At Big XII Media Days
Building a Program
He complimented his players for buying into “what we’re doing and how we’re building our program.” He was asked whether he would bring “smash-mouth” football to West Virginia. He responded that “blue collar people who are really prideful” form the core of West Virginia. And selfless, hard-working, “smash-mouth” players fit that culture well, according to Brown.
He said the most successful teams in the conference “have been able to run the ball well.” When asked about how his offense might look, he said “we’re probably a little bit more balanced [than the Texas Tech offenses he led].” Brown stressed that good play-callers and game-planners take “the players [they] have and their strengths and attach the weaknesses of the opposing defense.” Given the clear strength the Mountaineers have at running back, Brown strongly suggested that he will rely heavily on the run where he can.
Brown was asked how he planned to build the program. He confessed that he would be creative and stressed a “year-long approach” to roster building. Brown said that he would continue to recruit transfers and junior college players. However, he also said that intends “to build our teams through high school recruiting.” Those four and five-year players will always be “the foundation” of the program. As for his “creative approach,” Brown pointed to his summer recruiting, without explanation. By way of example, however, Brown earned the commitment of two high school recruits from Europe. And he has his eyes on several more.
As to the specifics for this season, Brown offered very little detail other than to stress that the team loses a lot of its production from 2018. He preached patience, and admitted that fans already (rightfully) understand the need for same. The schedule, of course, is grueling. And Brown started with the comment that “We’re young, very inexperienced.” But he also offered that “we’re going to be a group that really grows and improves as we through our Big XII conference.”
Brown added that he really enjoys his group of student-athletes. They are “hungry and humble.” And this fits the blue collar mold that he is looking to build. If Brown’s promise of growth over the course of the season rings true, then Mountaineer fans will follow him for years to come.
Remarks On The Conference
Finally, Brown made a few remarks about the state of the conference as a whole. He said the league is filled with “tremendous [and] innovative coaches.” He commented on the growth of the league as an offensive-minded conference over the past decade. Particularly, he said that the league features an “extremely high level of quarterback play” going back to, “2008 or so.”
But Brown also echoed what conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in his remarks on Monday. Brown said that the “defenses in this league are better” than presented nationally. We covered that same argument here. Analyzing the out-of-conference results over the past several years, particularly against Power 5 teams, reveals two critical facts. First, Big XII offenses don’t just perform well against Big XII defenses. Indeed, they also outscore their opponents’ defensive averages by at least a touchdown. Second, and perhaps surprisingly to some, the Big XII defenses hold their Power 5 out-of-conference opponents well below their season averages regularly. Brown offered that the defenses “will continue to improve,” and, based on the focus of the recent round of hires, he is correct.
As we recently wrote, the Mountaineers continue to look forward. There is reason for optimism, provided fans balance it with patience. The Mountaineers return a lot of snaps on the offensive line. They also return three running backs who earned over 100 snaps each. The building blocks are there for a balanced attack, as Brown promises. And, surely, his prediction for improvement over the course of the season includes a defense filled with a healthy mix of young talent and proven, blue-collar veterans. Either way, as Brown addressed the media on Tuesday, he certainly looked the part of a blue-collar leader.