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Neal Brown is on the hot seat at West Virginia. The fifth-year head football coach must figure it out this year or he will likely be fired. (It would be a definitive thing if the surprising situation with the basketball program didn’t muddy the waters some.)
Straits are so dire in Morgantown that Brown may not even make it through the entire season if the Mountaineers get off to a rough start. He is coaching for his job.
Brown, who had a lot of success in three years at Troy, took over at West Virginia in 2019 and has not had a winning season during a full year. The Mountaineers went 6-4 during the COVID-shortened season in 2020, but went 5-7 in year one, 6-7 in year three and 5-7 last year. Yikes.
As the focus turns to 2023, Brown made a very bold promise to do the bare minimum.
Neal Brown vows that West Virginia won’t finish last.
Brown spoke with The D.A. Show of CBS Sports Radio on Thursday morning to discuss the upcoming season. As part of the conversation, he talked about how it feels to be on the hot seat.
His answer was vague coach speak, which could be expected.
Everyone in this profession has pressure. I feel very fortunate to do this for a living. I feel a sense of gratitude. We want to be better. We have to be better this year. That’s what our state and fans and our players deserve, and that’s what we’re working towards.— Neal Brown, via The D.A. Show
Brown is reportedly taking back offensive play-calling duties this fall and will hope to find more consistency at the quarterback position. The Mountaineers have had multiple chances to win close games over the last few years and simply cannot execute down the stretch.
That is not lost on Brown.
If you look at our tenure here, we’ve had up and down play at quarterback and we’ve lost some close games. Our record isn’t what we’ve wanted it to be, but we’ve been very competitive. We have to finish these close games. The margin for error in this league is very, very small, and in league games, everybody has an opportunity to win every game. The good news is that you can win them all and the bad news is that you can lose them all. What it comes down to is the 4th quarter and in close games, you have to win the turnover margin, score touchdowns in the red zone and hold your opponents from scoring.— Neal Brown, via The D.A. Show
Expectations are to win. However, Brown did not set the bar particularly high.
The bare minimum is the bar?
Most, if not all college football analysts expect that West Virginia will finish near the bottom of the 14-team Big 12 conference in 2023. Many believe that the Mountaineers will finish dead last.
Brown says otherwise. His team might suck — he didn’t rule that out — it just won’t finish last!
Almost every preseason poll has us finishing last and I can guarantee you that we’re not going to finish last in the Big 12 Conference. We’re a much better football team than that. Now we’re anxious to go out and show it.— Neal Brown, via The D.A. Show
Gee, isn’t that encouraging! Brown went on to explain why his team will be better this fall.
The players see it on social media, but we aren’t worried about what the media does and says. A lot of that is laziness too. We have almost 120 starts on the offensive line. We have a budding star in running back CJ Donaldson.
Defensively, we have all league defenders at each level; Sean Martin will be an all-league player on the defensive line. Lee Kpogba is one of the leading returning tacklers and I think he’ll be an all-league player. And Aubrey Burks is one of the best safeties, if not the best safety in the league. We fell off last year on the defensive side and didn’t play as well as we had the first 3 years.
We’ll get that rectified and play much better defense, and that will give us an opportunity to win. I firmly believe we’ll be better.— Neal Brown, via The D.A. Show
He did not offer an expectation for his team other than that. Brown says that West Virginia will finish with a better record than 5-7 and will not finish last. Great, good luck!