The fresh, cool Spring morning breeze moves its way through the Appalachian Mountains as morning dew drips from the trees. You stand there and take a deep breath and breathe it all in. It feels so damn refreshing. That my friends, is exactly how Mountaineer fans should feel after the departure of Holgorsen and the entrance of Neal Brown. Refreshed.
It took me a total of two minutes into my conversation with Coach Brown to realize this guy is the perfect fit for WVU. I’m not talking about from a schematic standpoint. I am talking about being a representative of the university, a leader among these young men, and him having a thirst to get to know the people of WV while traveling to many parts of the state. This guy is West by God. The other good news, during the conversation, we didn’t have one cough break, another big difference between Brown and Holgorsen. Okay, that was just me being mean. Oops.
The Danville, Kentucky native understands what football means for a place such as WVU. He understands how much this program means to people around the mountain state, which is what attracted Brown to the job. “They’re passionate, I knew that coming in. That is something that really drew me to this job. The passion of the fan base. From every corner of the state, their passionate about WVU.”
It is a known fact that the life blood of any program is getting the players you need, being successful, and winning ball games in the Big 12. Thus, Mountaineer fans questions remain. How will Brown adjust and become familiar with the recruiting blue print of the program? What exactly is the plan for Brown and his coaching staff?
“I got experience in this region, most of our coaches do. I coached at UMass, played at UMass, coached at Sacred Heart in Connecticut, coached in Delaware. So, recruited New England, New York City, New Jersey, PA, down into Maryland. Coming into this job, we had a plan, the plan was to recruit within a six hour radius of Morgantown. Our secondary plan, was where we had our most recent experience and that’s down in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.”
If you stumble upon any fan group on Facebook or even a get together at a family gathering, Mountaineer fans will tell you they also want their new head coach to concentrate on keeping kids home to play for the Mountaineers. I can’t tell you how many times as a radio host I’ve been asked, why the coaches we hire never concentrate on in state talent. Brown made it clear that this was part of the recruiting efforts and expressed the importance of recognizing talent in the state at the high school level.
“I think the first thing you do when you talk about WV football, it’s a lot better than people give it credit for. You can attribute that to the level of coaching. The recruiting in this state, gets a bad rep because people look at the Division 1 products year in and year out, that are produced, but if you go back to population, we’re a small state population wise. So per ca pita, the number of Division 1 products we’re producing is not way off base. The important thing for us, we have to identify. we have to evaluate guys we feel like are Big 12 football player, power five football player, and we have to do everything possible within rules to keep those guys home.”
Home for Brown is now Morgantown. Back to what I said before, scroll up if you need to. This guy understands recruiting and the people of the great state of WV. When it comes to recruiting and whether Brown is a good fit, fan questions should be answered. Don’t get it at this point? How about we talk a little Don “The Godfather of WVU football Nehlen” and his meeting with Coach Brown.
“I think he (Nehlen) is Mountaineer football. I think he is a legend. I come into work everyday on a street that is named after him, deservedly so. A ton of respect for him as a football coach and what he got done here. Some of that is lost, the amount of production he had, and going to a national title game. Some of it is lost because how good of a person he is. A guy of the utmost character, a guy I’ve enjoyed getting to know here, and I look to grow that relationship. He will always be apart of this program.”
Transition can be easy with a legend like Don Nehlen. Maybe one day we will be talking about Coach Brown in historic context. One can dream, right? To wrap up the interview, I asked Neal about his expectations going into year one in Morgantown. When asking such a loaded question, you never know what you will get. One thing, I do know, Brown sets no limits on his expectations and goals.
“I don’t think you put limitations on what you think it is. I want us to have a mentality and play the game the right way. I want to be about the right things, I want to continue to grow our culture, and what this to be a foundation to what we are going to be about in the future. I know this, we will get it done here, this has been my mantra since the middle of Spring, we’re going to be great, I’m not sure when, but it’s not an if to me, it’s when it’s going to happen.”
Again, Brown gets it. The coach may not know how many games they will win in year one and he may have come off as all business during this interview, but we saw his “dabbing” skills in the music video he made at Troy. In conclusion, I will leave you with a little bet I made with coach. The bet – if he wins a conference championship he makes a new music video with his new players. Brown didn’t shy away from the bet. When I brought up his “dabbing” skills, he embraced the challenge.
“We can make a music video, the dab’s gone old though, we got to find a new one.”
Touche my friend. Good luck this year coach. For the fans, enjoy the ride.
Listen to the entire interview right here, follow The Brandon Lowe Show on Twitter @WBESBrandonLowe, and listen to the show live Monday through Friday 5 pm-6 on WBES-AM 950 or 95thesportsfox.com.
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