Brown appears to be without much ego and a critical thinker
SHEPHERDSTOWN — It appears that Neal Brown will not be lugging much of an ego with him from Houston. Critiquing his past success at Troy, Brown’s decisions seem to be made after much thought and a thorough search of any available facts and information.
His background is much the same as a whole orchard of assistants that finally landed a head coaching position. Since 2003, he has worked at Massachusetts, Sacred Heart, Delaware, Troy (as the offensive coordinator), Texas Tech (as the offensive coordinator), Kentucky (as the offensive coordinator) and again at Troy as the Trojans’ four-year head coach.
In the past three seasons, Troy has won at least 10 games every year. They also won three consecutive bowl games.
Brown’s players at Troy have come mostly from Alabama, Georgia and the westernmost counties in Florida. He has routinely had to recruit against Alabama, Auburn, South Alabama, Alabama-Birmingham, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Jacksonville State, Tuskegee and South Carolina.
If he’s going to be successful in Morgantown, it will be with athletes from outside the state of West Virginia. And, stating the obvious, the players make the coach. Finding quality athletes from in-state is easier in Alabama, since the sport of football is the lifeblood of people’s existence, the same as pulled pork, fried chicken, collard greens, corn bread, sweet tea, potato salad, hamburgers from the grill, a big orange drink, onion rings and apple pie are to the everyday diet.
If Brown coaxed enough local and area talent to Troy — enough to beat LSU and Nebraska in recent seasons — can he bring some of those game-winning players to Morgantown from the same Heart of Dixie lode of athletes?
Brown may or may not be an unrivaled recruiter or teacher so his success will be heightened by a boatload of assistants whose forte is evaluating talent and can recruit that talent.
If he is going to wring wins out of the schedules he sees, he needs to still recruit the Southland . . . as well as Ohio, Pennsylvania, south Florida, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and New Jersey. His array of assistants should possess hands-on knowledge of where the athletes of character and talent are located and be able to bring them to Morgantown. At Troy, Brown acted as his own offensive coordinator. Since the wins and losses will be directly attributed to him, it seems plausible that he should control the decision-making as much as possible.
West Virginia lost its last three games of the 2018 season — all verdicts coming against first-rate teams.
There will be gaping holes going into the 2019 season. Is there a serviceable quarterback around? Statistically, significant wide receivers will be missing. A new tight end and capable offensive linemen have to appear from somewhere. The defense that was stung for 49 points by Oklahoma State, 59 points by Oklahoma and 34 by Syracuse in the Camping World Bowl loss needs help.
Brown does not inherit a roster chocked full of proven Big 12 world-beaters. He does not come into next year with a schedule he can waltz through, and find a traditional bowl date at the end of the rainbow.
In the past, he hasn’t blown his own horn, and hasn’t made outlandish predictions about staging runs at national championships or even conference honors.
Why did Holgorsen leave? It wasn’t because he had a pyramid of talented players, easy games to win in the near future or boosters, fund raisers and athletic administrators straining to include him on their crowded social calendars.
It was because he had a limited roster, a challenging schedule to negotiate and some loud voices bellowing about not enough wins.