West Virginia head coach Neal Brown spoke to the media yesterday during the Big 12 Media Days. I’m going to do something different here. Any outlet can quote Brown and give you some story on what he said and the rundown. That is easy and everyone does it, so I’m not going to. What I’m going to do, instead, is tell you what he said and then respond. We’re going to have a conversation.
“It’s been a productive offseason. Staff adjustments on offense, highlighted by the addition of offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, [who] has been very beneficial. We remade our roster to mirror the type of football team that we want to be and give us the best opportunity to win this league. We’ve had 33 additions to our roster since January. Our work ethic, our leadership, and team chemistry are much improved. “
A few notes here, the offseason has been productive. The team has added several good players and the addition of Harrell appears to be a good one. It was also a necessary one with the stagnation and downright awful offenses West Virginia has run the past three years. I’d also say that the move to Harrell was a desperate move as we’ve seen coaches stick to their guns and dig in their heels and it cost them their job. As far as 33 new additions go, again, a necessity given what we lost. Brown notes that the work ethic, leadership and team chemistry are much improved and I’ll take him at his word that they are, because so far they haven’t been.
“Offensively we return our top 7 lineman. Two of our top receivers in Sam James and Bryce Ford-Wheaton. Two experienced tight ends. And then we have a competition at the quarterback position I’m sure you all want to talk about”
If this team is going to make strides its going to be because of two places on offense - the offensive line and the quarterbacks. The return of everyone on the line is good news and should make most people cautiously optimistic, but I would remain cautious because that line was not good and I would argue that offensive line coach Matt Moore is coaching for his job this year. One more bad line and he needs to be coaching elsewhere in 2023. AS far as the quarterback competition goes, it better not be a competition. Daniels needs to win that and win it quick. While I can appreciate a good competition, this better be one of those paper competitions that is handle quickly. There is no room to let four men battle it out for multiple practices as you get ready for a very critical year.
“Defensively a lot of experience returning on the defensive line. Like the athleticism of our linebackers with Exree Loe and Lance Dixon. Huge addition with Lee Kpogba, he’ll be a difference maker there. At corner I like the group we have there, with Charles Woods. And some additions through the transfer portal. Inexperience at safety.”
I found it interesting here Brown started strong about the defensive line, raves about the linebackers, then the backend its yeah we’ve got guys. The corners and safeties are going to be tested and could be the difference between 8-4 and 6-6.
Onto questions. (paraphrased because I dont want to type out another 3,000 words).
Q1: “Will you be able to stay a defensive oriented team with an air raid OC and losses on defense”
“This defensive unit has the ability to be the best we’ve fielded so far. We’re never going to lose what makes West Virginia special and that’s its toughness. We really try to mirror the mindset of our state. West Virginia, it’s a blue collar group that goes to work and is really proud of their heritage. That’s the same qualities we’re trying to look for and put on the field on the defensive side of the ball every Saturday. “
I’m doing what I can here to not be mean but my pandering meter and BS meter is going off. There is a scene in the movie I, Robot where Will Smith sneezes and says “Sorry, I’m allergic to bull___” and that’s where I’m at with this. I’m not a fan of pandering and this feels like pandering. I’m sure every coach wants tough, blue-collar, lunch pail type guys on defense, so there’s little need to bring up the state. I’m sure many fans will eat this up. Have at it, I can do without the platitudes.
Q2: “What changes has Graham Harrell brought to the team, locker room and improvements on offense”.
“He’s brought a different energy about him. He’s confident without being arrogant. He’s extremely humble. It helps that he was a great player in this league. I think that gets the players attention on the current roster but also in recruiting. He’s had great success at USC and North Texas as well. He’s been able to have success with different types of players and different types of offenses. I’m excited what he can bring. He’s been a great a staff member. For me, he’s got a great feel on gameday. “
Yup. Harrell should be good. Offense should be better. Will it translate into wins? It better.
Q3: “How can Graham Harrell put everything in so quickly”.
“We basically put everything we had in the spring. From a schematic standpoint, [schematically] we don’t anticipate being all that different. Where we’re going to be different is our preparation, practice habits, and our ability to be more prepared going into each and every game. From a schematic standpoint, we installed everything we’re going to do in spring ball. We’ve been repping them all summer. We’ll use the fall camp to rep them even more. “
I get that Brown likes to think he is an Air Raid guy because he came from the Hal Mumme tree and he runs the same routes and has the same concepts that others have but personality wise, he’s not an Air Raid guy. His responses of being prepared and practice habits make me think that being a head coach was too much for him offensively, so I’m glad he hired an OC. Does it make you happy to hear we’ll be better prepared and practice better this year or does it anger you that we weren’t as prepared and didn’t practice as well the past three years?
Q4: [Kevin Kinder of BlueGoldNews] “Are you concerned with the players time management with the NIL, as its one more thing taking their attention away from football”.
“Hi Kevin, thanks for making the trip. Appreciate that. We live in an era where there are a lot of pulls in our players time. The ability to manage time for the players, student-athletes, staff, even myself, gets harder and harder. I’m for Name, Image and Likeness (NIL). We’ve got to figure out some guardrails on it where we can help student athletes but its not used as an inducement. A lot of preparation for our players is about time management because the one thing everyone has the same, is the same amount of time and how you manage that is the differential in the success of each individual. With Name, Image, Likeness that’s been a huge part of the character development piece of our 5th Quarter Program.”
I agree with Brown here. NIL is here to stay and players should be compensated outside of the scholarship. Its a multi-BILLION dollar industry and the labor should be paid. There should be guardrails in place so Texas A&M can’t buy a #1 recruiting class. There should be guardrails in place so Miami can’t steal five players from another team under promises of more payouts. And a state like West Virginia shouldn’t have to worry about fundraising or begging donors to shell out $10-12 million dollars a year just to keep players.