Championships are the goal but Patience may be Needed
The Big 12 Conference media days are wrapped up and the first day of fall football camp is right around the corner. Players and coaches from around the conference stood inside AT&T Stadium with the same goal in mind, coming back for the conference Championship game.
Those aspirations for the West Virginia football program may seem a bit out of reach. There were never any high expectations surrounding WVU this upcoming season. They lost most of their production from a team that went 8-4, and with the loss to Syracuse in the Champ Sports Bowl, the future didn’t look to bright.
However, newly hired head coach Neal Brown has brought together a fractured fan base and rejuvenated them. He touched on the support he has received during his time at the podium Tuesday morning and jokingly started it with “I think it’s because we’re undefeated”.
Although that comment was meant in humor, there is a lot of truth to that statement. Everything is good until that first loss and fans will take to their social media platforms and voice their frustration. But right now, we’re still in that honeymoon phase and Neal went into a little more detail on why fans have supported him since day one.
“It’s a couple things. I think our marketing staff and the people within our administration have done a really good job presenting us to the state. I think there is a lot of relate ability from Kentucky. Brooke and I, my wife, we’re five hours from our hometown and I can’t say enough about how we’ve been received, really, and not only myself and my family but also our staff and their families.”
A perfect example on why he has been accepted with open arms without even coaching a game in Morgantown, aside for producing three-straight 10-win seasons at his previous stop (Troy), was later in the press conference, referencing finding walk-ons that become key contributors.
“The good thing about that is if you look at who we are as West Virginia University, who we are as a football program, who we are as a state, really at the core we’re hard-working, blue collar people that are prideful.”
You can pull similar quotes from nearly every Neal Brown press conference since he arrived in Morgantown.
There is a buzz surrounding the program on what the future could possibly hold under Brown but the 2019 season is being looked upon as a rebuilding year. Sports books around the country agree, putting the Mountaineers win total at 5.5 wins.
“We’ve got our hands full.” Stated Brown. “It’s one of those things where there’s so much energy and so much excitement, you want to make sure that they understand that we lost a lot from last year, Barry, and we’re going to be a young football team and I think our fan base understands that and there’s going to be some patience.”
It may require some patience, but the staff and players will go into the season with that common goal, winning a Big 12 Championship. Despite what people think, these Mountaineers are ready to compete.
“What people say outside of the program, helps drives us. I think that’s just a little extra motivation.” Said safety JoVanni Stewart during summer workouts. “Always with coaching changes, people expect a bad season the first season. For myself and for other seniors we plan on going out with a bang. We definitely have been pushing each other real hard.”
What is it going to take to play in the Big 12 Championship?
“Extra work.” Said guard Josh Sills. “We might not have the most talented people or everyone we had last year, but we know that we have some of the hardest working guys in the building. At the end of they day you can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t work hard with that talent then, it doesn’t really mean anything. So, we look at it as, we might not be the most athletic team out there but we’re going to out work you and we’re going to outplay you and be more physical than you and at the end of the day, that’s what football is.”
There seems to be a consensus among the players that everyone has bought into what Neal Brown is selling and the leadership of the seniors seem to be paying off. Of course, we won’t really know how this edition of the Mountaineers will look till August 31st, but defensive end and Bridgeport native Reese Donahue had a message.
“Don’t forget about the old gold and blue. Everybody’s always the first people to count us out. We’re always underdogs. I don’t care who it is.”
“Coach Brown, he’s in the building here, and he’s going to make this team – in a year, two, three, four, five years, however long it’s going to take him, this team is going to great. This program is going to be great.”
“I think we’re going to be a Big 12 and maybe even National Championship contenders every year. I don’t know when that’s going to be but Coach Brown talks about that we’re going to be great, he doesn’t know when but even then, people are going to count out West Virginia. We’re always underdogs, no matter how good we are. People doubt us, people dog us. It doesn’t matter. We’ll get the job done.”
These aren’t predictions but a belief Neal Brown will bring them success.
They may not be the most talented but you’ll get their best. Its just going to take a little patience.