Brown inherits little, still inspires confidence in the ranks
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Inexperienced faces can be seen everywhere you look along West Virginia University’s football depth chart. So many transfers left. So many transfers have come to Morgantown.
And the coach is Neal Brown, a man who seems to inspire confidence even before he has coached a single game at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Why is there an ever-growing belief Brown can help make the Mountaineers a fundamentally sound, enthusiastic and easy-to-root-for team?
Because there are no win-win promises that really have no plausible facts behind those platitudes.
Brown only says his teams will play hard, be a well-conditioned group and will be a tight-knit roster full of players caring about things other than their own statistics and chances to impress NFL types.
West Virginia’s vault of high-quality/experienced players is about empty. But nobody is counting the team as a losing casualty of the 2019 season.
There is no significant quarterback. The list of receivers is barren of those doing winning things in the past. A cadre of defensive backs has yet to prove it can hold any team to fewer than 300 passing yards.
Depth has yet to appear anywhere except for the squad of running backs, who mostly appear to be even when it comes to receiving playing time.
Who is this Coach Brown fellow?
He comes from Troy in the football-crazy state of Alabama. He coached at Troy for the past four seasons . . . and won at least 10 games in 2016, 2017 and 2018. His Troy team defeated Buffalo, 42-30, in last season’s Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Before being hired by Troy, Coach Brown had been the offensive coordinator at Kentucky. And before that, the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech. And before that, the offensive coordinator at Troy.
Brown is not a spotlight-seeking egoist with an ironed-on, me-first personality. He is humble enough. He is knowledgeable enough. He is secure enough in his own skin and in his systems, to stay away from brash statements and shouting to the heavens about what his teams are going to do, before playing even one game.
He isn’t naive about the expectations of WVU followers and alumni.
Brown steps in at a time when the schedule is not favorable to running off to 10 or 11 wins.
Even Missouri and North Carolina State will be favored to beat the Mountaineers.
Brown’s first bunch has to win at least six games to be bowl eligible. Yet, this team was selected in pre-season polls of media-flavored rhetoric to finish eighth in the 10-team league. Only Kansas and Kansas State are said to be more unreliable than the 2019 Mountaineers.