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Brown Working At Home To Improve WVU

Class of 2022 still a work in progress

West Virginia head coach Neal Brown looks on from the sideline in an NCAA college football game against Baylor in Waco, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)

MORGANTOWN — Neal Brown’s initial year at the WVU football helm was somewhat disappointing, although finishing in upbeat fashion.

Brown took over a Mountaineer program that predecessor Dana Holgorsen left void of much Big 12-caliber talent. As a result, WVU finished with a 5-7 mark.

The season, however, did end in upbeat fashion. Brown’s improving charges won two of their last three starts, downing Kansas State and TCU, both on the road.

Brown, who worked wonders by winning big at Troy before coming to Morgantown, displayed his highly-regarded coaching prowess as his Mountaineers, despite a lack of blue-chip talent and a rash of key injuries, exhibited improvement and progress as the season played out.

That growth yielded optimism for the 2020 campaign, a season which has now been placed in limbo due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Spring drills have been halted. The spring game, scheduled for April 18 at Milan Puskar Stadium, has been canceled. Players have been sent home and coaches are holed up in their respective homes.

Uncertainty runs rampant in college football circles, as it does in everyday life worldwide.

Brown, however, is working as diligently as ever to elevate the Mountaineers’ grid fortunes.

“Nobody planned this out,” Brown said in a recent teleconference. “But we can control our response to it. We are trying to get the most work done we can as a staff, and hopefully our players do the most they can.

“Every day our assistants need eyeball-to-eyeball contact with their position groups,” he added. “We are concerned with the health and well-being of our players. It’s more about maintaining a social routine for players than it is about football.”

WVU is scheduled to open the season against Florida State on Saturday, Sept. 5 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Not having his players going through spring drills is an obvious concern for Brown.

“(Strength & conditioning coach) Mike Joseph is sending out three different workouts to our players. His focus is more on conditioning. We realize there will be some strength drop-off,” Brown said. “We are hoping they are doing something. But we cannot mandate it.

“The conditioning aspect is critical. I think if you shorten that prep time (before the season starts), there is a definite likelihood in injury. I don’t think anyone involved in the game is interested in that happening.”

The pandemic has also impacted the recruiting process. While Brown’s 2021 class is well in hand and appears to be a productive haul, the 2022 class is still a work in progress.

Evaluations for our 2021 class are done. We are working on the 2022 class,” Brown said. “We are missing our on-campus visits. A lot of potential recruits come and watch practice over spring break.

“I don’t think we will have a spring recruiting season. We are moving forward as if we are going to have camps. Live evaluations are very important. If schools don’t have them, it changes the landscape of recruiting.”

Although spring practice was truncated after two days, Brown did take away from positives.

“I think we are an eager group and a fun group to coach,” he said. “Our skills group is much better than it was a year ago. Our cohesiveness is better. Some guys really made big jumps.

“There has some been some pleasant surprises on the offensive side. We have some talent on offensive perimeter. Our receivers have a chance to be one of our better groups. I will miss working with them.”

In closing, Brown addressed the current big picture of society.

“I urge everyone to be safe. We can do our best work by staying home,” he stressed. “I urge everyone to support local businesses and local news …whether it be radio, print or television. That is important. Stay safe.”

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