With the start of fall camp still a few weeks away, new WVU head coach Neal Brown admitted at Big 12 Media Days that he still has a lot of uncertainty about the look of his lineup.
Though he noted his players and staff have all bought in, the Mountaineers will be a very young and inexperienced group in 2019.
“What we’re going to look like in the fall, I’m not sure yet. I’m really not,” said Brown. “We have had 15 on-field practices. We’re going to be a group that really improves as we go through our Big 12 Conference and what is a very challenging schedule, but I do like our guys. They’re hungry, very humble and I’m looking forward to working with them.”
While there’s plenty of excitement surrounding Brown and the Mountaineers to begin this new era of WVU football, he echoed the words of Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby in saying he realizes he’ll face plenty of challenges with a new team and young roster.
“We’ve got our hands full,” said 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, and we’re going to be a young football team. I think our fan base understands that and there’s going to be some patience.”
Brown also noted that he’s not focused on replacing the big names that have left the program — either through graduation or transfers — but on determining which players can make an impact right away.
“I do feel good about how those guys worked, how they’ve really prepared, and I think we’ve got some depth, and we’ve got some young guys who are ready to play,” said Brown.
Brown touched on a variety of other topics during his press conference:
Brown established his stance on this topic the moment he arrived in Morgantown: He wants the Mountaineers to play geographic rivals.
“Some of those types of games make sense because it’s hard for our fan base to travel, so those geographic games and natural rivalries, I think they’re important for us to play,” said Brown.
Maryland returns to the schedule next season, while rivalries against Virginia Tech and Pitt will be renewed in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
WVU is once again one of just a few Division I teams that will play 11 Power 5 teams this season — and the Mountaineers’ schedule will continue to contain that many Power 5 opponents in the coming years when these rivalry series resume.
On the league’s new head coaches
Brown is one of four new head coaches of Big 12 teams, and all four of those teams are ranked at the bottom of this year’s preseason poll. All of those coaches, including Brown, have found success with different programs at different levels.
“I grew up in a family of educators, really been around sports all my life,” said Brown. “What I really respect about the group of head coaches in this league is so many of them worked their way up from lower levels, lower positions and worked their way up to the highest level of Power 5 college football.”
A “year-long” approach to building a roster
Former head coach Dana Holgorsen gained a reputation for bringing transfers in to WVU. Brown said his staff is open to bringing transfers in, but wants to build the program by recruiting high school players.
“I think you have a mix,” said Brown. “We’re always going to try to build our team through the high school football recruiting. I think that’s how you build your foundation. I think it’s important to have guys in your program for four and five years, but we’re also going to be creative in how we build our roster. If you look at what we’ve done this summer, you’ll see that. We’re going to be creative, and really, it’s a year-long approach to building our roster.”