Neal Brown Concentrating on Development And Recruiting
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –West Virginia’s football season came to an end last Friday with the Mountaineers’ 20-17 victory at TCU.
Since then WVU head coach Neal Brown has spent most of his time on the road visiting recruits ahead of the December National Letter of Intent period which starts on Dec. 18.
He was back in Morgantown this Friday, as WVU is hosting recruits on official visits through the weekend, and also next weekend.
Brown also took the opportunity to hold an in-depth press conference, discussing his first season as the Mountaineers’ head coach.
“I’ve had a week now to reflect on the 2019 season; 5-7 is not good enough. That doesn’t meet the standard here. We’re well aware of that,” Brown stated. “However, we were only favored in two out of our 12 games, and I was pleased with how we finished the season. I thought we played our best football in November.
“I’m excited about our future and excited about where we’re going,” added Brown, whose club features 20 offensive and 12 defensive players who have started games for the Mountaineers and are eligible to return next season. “We played a ton of first- and second-year players. We return a really high percentage of production on offense and defense. We have some holes to fill on special teams, but we return a high level of production on offense and defense.”
Certainly for West Virginia to improve next season, it must get better at running the football. The Mountaineers were not only last in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game (73.2) but also 128th out of 130 FBS teams in that category.
“We have to be focused on being the most improved team in the country next year,” said the 39-year-old native of Danville, Kentucky. “The key area of improvement for us is in run-game production. If we want to make strides offensively and as a football team, we have to be able to run the football better. Defensively we have to increase our takeaways (14 gained, which was sixth in the Big 12). Those are the two biggest statistical pieces that we have to make strides in.”
Before Brown and his staff start to work on those improvements, they will first concentrate on finishing off their recruiting efforts for the class of 2020.
“It’s a busy time of the year in recruiting,” noted Brown. “Last week was a contact period, traveling around trying to get to players who are committed or who we want in the boat. That contact period goes through next Saturday. We have official visits this weekend and next weekend. We also have two big junior days this month. We plan on finishing strong with the intention of signing most of our class on Dec. 18.
“It’s a huge offseason for us, both in recruiting and in development.”
West Virginia saw several scholarship players leave the football program and enter the transfer portal during the season.
Now in the week after the final game, a couple more Mountaineers have entered that portal. Junior tight end Jovani Haskins placed his name on that NCAA database on Friday. That came a few days after walk-on center Adam Stilley also entered the portal.
“Jovani went into portal today,” noted Brown. “We’re going to meet later today. I haven’t had a chance to sit down with him yet because I’ve been on the road. Adam Stilley is also in the portal, and I totally support him. He’s done nothing but work hard. I think for now that’s it (in terms of potential departures from the underclassmen).”
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WVU junior defensive lineman Darius Stills, announced he will return to WVU in 2020. This, after he considered entering his name in the NFL Draft.
— Darius C. Stills (@DariusStills56) December 6, 2019
Brown explained that Stills had requested an evaluation for the NFL’s College Advisory Committee, which is made up of high-level evaluators from NFL clubs and the league’s two sanctioned scouting organizations (National Football Scouting and BLESTO) to give underclassmen an idea of their draft potential.
“There is a process you go through that gives them really good feedback,” noted Brown.
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Mountaineer senior receiver George Campbell also may have a similar decision.
Campbell spent four years at Florida State before coming to West Virginia as a grad transfer last summer. Because Campbell was injured and saw no action with the Seminoles in 2016 and then was limited to four early-season games in 2017, he could potentially qualify for a sixth year in which to complete his four seasons of college eligibility. He’d need an NCAA waiver if he wants to return to WVU in 2020.
“He’s applied, and we’re pretty certain he’ll be approved,” Brown said of Campbell’s appeal for a sixth year. “Now it’s really going to be a decision for him. It’s going to be sort of like a junior – will he come out (for the NFL) or will he not come out? I’m supportive of George.
“When we got him from Florida State, we thought it was going to be a one-year deal,” continued WVU’s head coach. “He exceeded our expectations. I think he ended up second on the whole team in community service hours. He gave us some stability in that receiving room. He was our best special teams player, starting on all four core special teams units. Then, oh by the way, he got significantly better as a receiver later in the year. If he comes back, I think he can mold into a high-level receiver. I think he’s just now scratching the surface. But I’m completely supportive of him in whatever decision he makes.”