How Neal Brown has Begun to turn West Virginia football around

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Over the past year, Neal Brown has accomplished the extraordinary: transitioning from a coach under intense scrutiny to a beloved figure among many fans in just one season. His task was daunting -- he inherited a roster significantly weakened by Dana Holgorsen's sudden departure, and rebuilding was hampered by the challenges of navigating through the COVID-19 season as well as the introduction of the transfer portal and Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rules.

The journey back from those initial setbacks was arduous, requiring a complete overhaul of his strategies and methods. He has faced criticism from fans for a 31-29 overall record in his five-year tenure, including a pair of five-win seasons. However, through sheer determination and a fresh perspective, Brown has seemingly managed to turn the tide. On Friday, Brown was asked during a press conference if he felt he was where he expected to be.

"After that season in [2022], where I felt like we underachieved," Brown said. "I just hit the reset button on a lot of it. So I don't know, I probably didn't have six year plan when I got here. As far as just thinking about what we'd look like going into year six in the spring, I probably can't answer that question."

Brown went in deeper during the press conference about exactly what changes he made from the 2022 season that he thought were neccesary.

"The main thing on that, is just from a simple -- there's a lot of things off the field, a lot," he said. "But from a simple football point is we want to be a team that is disciplined, strains. is tough and is smart. And all those traits take absolutely no talent."

Earlier this spring, offensive lineman Ja'Quay Hubbard spoke on the "3 Guys Before the Game" podcast about how much the culture has changed, crediting it to the locker room being emptied of what he referred to as "energy vampires" -- those who hamper the positive vibes in the locker room.

Brown also spoke during a press conference in December about wishing he could have begun the process sooner, but the transfer portal rules hadn't loosened to the point they're at now.

“We would have flipped the roster more in [20]19,” he said. "The rules weren’t the same, but if I had the rules that are there now, I probably would’ve been a little more aggressive."

Brown said he feels that he's around "month 16" of the reboot, and that he thinks his team is "making progress." He has attempted to reshape the identity of his program, and he certainly seems to think that project is headed in the right direction. However, he knows there is still more to prove.

"We're in progress of, like that, identity we need to be," he said. "I'm pleased with where we're at 16 months into it. But we've not arrived."

Brown is also a firm believer that in terms of the sheer number of players that are capable of stepping up and making an impact, his roster is deeper than it has been since he's been with the program.

 "I would say in the fall -- we're still missing some pieces right now," Brown said. "Whether that's the portal, and then we got those signees that haven't gotten here. But in the fall, that would be accurate, as long as everything stays."