Despite Significant Challenges, Brown Building For Success


The NFL Draft is over and for the first time since 2007, West Virginia is on the outside looking in. Really since 2019, when five Mountaineer players’ names were called, the pickings have been pretty slim around here. Offensive tackle Colton McKivitz was the 153rd choice by the San Francisco 49ers in the fifth round of the 2020 draft, and last year, Arizona graduate transfer linebacker Tony Fields II was taken at the exact same spot as McKivitz by the Cleveland Browns. That’s it. This has been West Virginia’s sparsest pool of NFL-caliber talent since the early 1950s, which is the last time a Mountaineer football coach has been handed a roster as depleted as the one Neal Brown is currently rebuilding. And make no mistake about it, although the R-word hasn’t been used much around here since Brown took over from Dana Holgorsen in 2019, that’s exactly what he’s had to do - rebuild. One experienced and knowledgable onlooker recently told me that the cupboard wasn’t just bare when Brown took over in 2019, it was barely even attached to the wall! The last time West Virginia experienced something to this degree was when Mississippi State offensive line coach Pappy Lewis was hired following Dud DeGroot’s two tumultuous seasons in Morgantown in 1948-49. DeGroot was brought in from the professional ranks to inject some excitement and enthusiasm into a Mountaineer grid program that had seemingly grown stale under Jock Sutherland protégé Bill Kern. DeGroot was a Clark Shaughnessy disciple whose expertise with the popular T-Formation offense made him an attention-grabbing hire.