Media Day Notebook: West Virginia
TAKING NEXT STEP
West Virginia returns a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but head coach Neal Brown said that the way they play on the offensive side of the ball will dictate the direction of their season.
Of course, they have Jarrett Doege at quarterback and he returns and has plenty of experience, but they've lacked explosiveness on offense, specifically through the air.
They've emphasized that in the offseason, and some of it he believes hinges on Doege's pocket awareness and movement and his accuracy when throwing the deep ball. Brown felt like they missed chances because of inaccuracy and inconsistency on both throwing and receiving end.
The Mountaineers have the talent and experience, but they need the receivers to grow up and make the jump they need and show that they have been in Morgantown for multiple seasons. They can't only rely on Leddie Brown.
Neal Brown made sure to note the Mountaineers' schedule in his opening statement, and it is a tricky one. They are only one of four schools at the college level that will play at least 11 Power Five games.
In defense of Brown, he didn't shy away from it or use the difficulty as an excuse. He embraced the toughness of it because the regional rivalries they share are important to their fans.
They'll play both Maryland and Virginia Tech in non-conference action.
An observation I had was that it is apparent that Brown is much more confident in his team this season than he has been the past few years, and he expressed that consistently throughout his time at the podium.
He said the leadership and the culture on their team is the best that it has been since he arrived and took over the football duties at the school. Not only that, he believes their athleticism is the best it has been in his two and a half years at West Virginia.
"I like our team. I really, really like our team."
Leddie Brown is back. Jarrett Doege is back. There's experience at receiver and tight end and some returning starting offensive linemen. They had the top pass defense a season ago in his estimation, and return nearly everyone in the secondary.
Dante Stills was their most improved player in the Spring and their standout on the defensive side and he has confidence in Tony Fields and Josh Chandler at linebacker.
PROVE THEM RIGHT OR PROVE THEM WRONG
To the surprise of some, West Virginia was picked sixth in the league. There's a belief of some, including myself, that they have a chance to break through in Brown's third season at the helm. The head coach in Morgantown was asked if he felt like they were being slept on.
"You can either prove them right or prove them wrong," Brown responded.
That has been the mantra that he shares with his players. He doesn't say to not pay attention to it or to not dwell on their own press clippings, whether it be either positive or negative. He just shares that their performance matters more, and they'll either support that claim or refute it.
Neal Brown's first appearance at Big 12 Media Days in Arlington as the West Virginia head coach was two years ago in 2019. He was very uncomfortable and nervous in that session and it showed.
He didn't have the most conviction in his answers and was not the most educated on everything within the league or, at times, his own roster. That was understandable. It was his first Power Five job and he had not been in Morgantown all that long.
Wednesday was night and day from that performance. He was much more comfortable in his own skin and even shared some humorous answers and jokes. He was much more polished, thorough and had a confident presence.