Brown’s Attention To Detail Especially Noticeable In WVU Recruiting
From the first day that he was hired as West Virginia’s head football coach in January of 2019, it quickly became apparent that Neal Brown was an incredibly detail-oriented individual.
The way the Mountaineers practice, the way they travel, everything about Brown’s program is done with a purpose.
That’s especially true when it comes to the lifeblood of any college sports team – recruiting.
Brown’s Mountaineer staff gets as deep into the weeds as it possibly can about every prospect they recruit, but it starts out in relatively simple terms.
“We have these questions that we must answer, and the first one is can they play? That’s a yes or no,” explained Brown. “If it’s a no, then you don’t need to do anything else. If it’s a yes, than you go to the second question, which is academics; are they capable of doing college work? If that’s no, then you are done there, but if it’s yes, they are on pace to qualify and on pace to be a successful college student, then you go to the third question, which is more complicated. That question is whether their character is right and fits for the culture of our program. To find that, you really have to dig in.
“Those are the questions we ask about every kid. You need yeses for each of those, and that thins out your list. It’s further thinned out when you find out who is interested in us. If they’re not interested in us, there is no reason to continue the pursuit.
“If you find guys who are yes to all three initial questions and are also interested in us, then it comes down to a numbers game and when people commit and all that stuff,” noted Brown.
Those are the basics of recruiting, and they’re the norm for most every program.
Some may stop after those first questions, but for Brown, the search for details is just beginning.
In normal times, West Virginia’s coaches would be on the road right now for the spring evaluation period, which was slated to run from April 15 to May 31. During this time coaches visit various schools, talk to coaches and school officials, watch practice for those prospects who have it (taking video from their phones when possible) and then send a comprehensive report and any video back to WVU’s recruiting staff every day, which compiles the info and presents it West Virginia’s head coach during their daily meeting.
“We’re in the data collection business, and we try to collect as much data on these guys as we possibly can,” explained Brown. “We start when a kid is either a freshman or sophomore, and move forward from there.
“My message to our staff – and it’s always consistent – it’s about the guys we get, not about the guys we don’t get.”
Recruiting travel is currently shut down throughout all of college athletics because of the COVID-19. Coaches are still spending a lot of time on recruiting, but they are doing so now through phone calls and Zoom and FaceTime chats. Still, the search for details on every recruit continues.
Brown and his staff inherited most of WVU’s class of 2019, and it had less than a year to pull together the class of 2020, which included 20 members. That recent class featured signees from 12 states and two foreign countries – Canada and the Netherlands.
That was a pretty broad net, but as he becomes more established at West Virginia, Brown wants to better utilize areas that have traditionally been good to Mountaineer football.
“In terms of geography, we have a primary area, which is basically a six-hour circle around Morgantown,” he said. “Then we have secondary areas in the southeast and also the junior colleges we traditionally hit.
“I think we’re making headway in a lot of those geographical areas,” WVU’s second-year coach stated. “We may not have done quite as good a job as we would like to in year one in the state of Ohio, but I think we’re making serious inroads there now. In the (D.C./Maryland/Virginia) area, we’re continuing to work there. We finished strong there last year in recruiting, and we’re continuing to build quality relationships there now. From a geographic footprint, we’re getting a pretty good idea of the type of kid that is drawn to Morgantown. There are also pockets of kids in the southeast that through prior success have a very high opinion of West Virginia. I’m not saying we’re perfect, but we’re getting better feel of where we need to get guys.”
Brown is adapting as he goes, but his biggest sales pitch to recruits in regards to Mountaineer football remains the same.
“I think every place you recruit to, there are different things that draw recruits,” he said in an exclusive interview with BlueGoldNews.com. “What we try to articulate to potential student-athletes about what is unique about West Virginia in comparison to others we compete against is the fact that we are the state’s team. There are no other Power 5 teams, no other professional sports teams in the state. So, the exposure our student-athletes get here is higher than what they can get in other players. That’s something we draw to.”
Brown also wants to get recruits who “fit” well into his program. Most every coach talks about “fit” and “chemistry,” but it often means different things to different people.
“When we use the word fit, it’s really all the intangible pieces,” explained the 40-year-old native of Danville, Kentucky. “It’s about finding the student-athlete who will be good for the town of Morgantown and this University. Are they good guys? Are they accountable? Are they willing to be disciplined? Are they coachable? What is their energy level? Those are the things we talk about when we talk about fit. We’re going to be disciplined, and we’re going to be accountable. We’re going to love guys hard, but we’re going to coach them hard too. We’re going to require guys to have great energy every day. Those environmental principles are really important to us. If the kid is not a fit for those, it’s not going to work, so let’s not bring them in to start.”