Next Step For WVU’s Neal Brown: Staff Hirings
Now that Neal Brown has been hired as West Virginia’s head football coach, the next logical question is what will his staff at WVU look like?
How many assistant coaches will he bring with him from Troy? How many, if any, will he retain from Dana Holgorsen’s 2018 staff?
All those are tough questions to answer right now. Even Brown himself may not know yet everything he wants to do. Having spent the past four seasons as the head coach of Troy, Brown is going to spend the next couple=of days at the American Football Coaches Association convention in San Antonio, and he’ll likely interview potential hires while there, especially those from WVU or elsewhere that doesn’t know well.
The salary pool for Holgorsen’s staff this past year, not including the head coach, was reportedly $3,617,500, so that’s the base figure you would expect Brown will have to work with. At Troy, Brown had $1,430,000 to divide among his staff, so he’ll obviously have a lot more money at his disposal when it comes to hiring assistant coaches and other staff members at West Virginia.
In today’s part one, we look at Brown’s staff at Troy who could be part of Brown’s Mountaineer program moving forward:
Brian Blackmon (tight ends/s-backs) – A native of Montgomery, Ala., where he helped lead Robert E. Lee High school to the state football championship in 1991, Blackmon is in his first season coaching the tight ends and fullbacks at Troy. A 1996 graduate of Troy, he spent 21 years as a coach and athletic director at Opelika (Ala.) High School before becoming an offensive analyst at Auburn for one season (2017). He then returned to his alma mater as a full-time assistant this past year. His top tight end with the Trojans in 2018, Richard Hallman, had just eight catches for 53 yards.
Sean Dawkins (running backs) – A native of the Atlanta area, Dawkins is a former running back at Troy (2003-07) who just returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach in 2018. He previously coached in the FCS ranks at Austin Peay (2017), Chattanooga (2014) and Murray State (2010-13 & 2015-16). He helped guide junior Troy running back B.J. Smith to 1,186 rushing yards this past season.
Brandon Hall (outside linebackers/special teams) – A native of Newcastle, Okla., Hall began his coaching career while an undergrad at the University of Oklahoma, working as a student-assistant coach from 1998-2000. He then spent three more years as a G.A. at OU, helping with the linebackers. Hall then moved into a quality control assistant role with the Sooners (2003-05), before becoming an assistant coach at Central Oklahoma. From there he worked at Northern Iowa, Arkansas State, Auburn and Jacksonville State before joining the Troy staff in 2018. He was part of a Trojan defense this past year that was 21st in the FBS ranks against the rush (128.7 ypg).
Bam Hardmon (inside linebackers) – A 2003 University of Florida grad and former all-SEC linebacker, the Jacksonville, Fla., native has spent the past four seasons coaching at Troy. His first three years he was the Trojans’ defensive line coach, and this year he took over at inside linebacker. A three-year NFL linebacker, Hardmon previously coached at Idaho (2013-14), Georgia Southern (2012) and Illinois (2009-11). His defense limited opponents to 21.2 points per game this year, 30th in the FBS ranks.
Vic Koenning (defensive coordinator/safeties) – The 58-year-old Koenning is the veteran of the Troy coaching staff. He’s a native of Owasso, Okla., and was a three-year starting linebacker at Kansas State (1979-81). After a two-year stint as a player in the USFL, Koenning began a coaching career that started at Memphis (1986-96) and led him to Wyoming, where he was the defensive coordinator from 1997-99 and the head coach from 2000-02 (5-29). After that, he spent two years at Troy as defensive coordinator starting in 2003, held the same role at Clemson (2005-08), K-State (2009) and Illinois (1010-11), was the safeties coach at North Carolina (2012-14) and then returned to Troy where he again became the D.C. with Brown’s ascension to head coach in 2015. Koenning is one of the top candidates to replace Brown as the head coach at Troy, but if he does not get that job, he’s very likely to follow Brown to West Virginia.
Jordan Lesley (defensive line) – A native of Fulton, Miss., Lesley is a former Troy tight end who graduated from the University in 2006. He spent nearly a decade coaching in the junior college ranks – Kilgore, Northwest Mississippi and East Mississippi – before returning to Troy in 2016. He spent this past season coaching the Trojans’ defensive line, which helped produce 39 sacks this past season.
Matt Moore (offensive coordinator/offensive line) – A Canton, Ga., native and former offensive lineman at Valdosta State (1991-94), Moore spent a decade coaching high school football, including six years as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Hoover (Ala.) High before moving into the college ranks in 2006, joining the Troy staff. From there he left for five seasons at Texas Tech (2007-11), where he worked for a couple years with Brown, who was the Red Raiders’ offensive coordinator from 2010-12. Moore also spent one season at both Middle Tennessee (2013) and Louisiana Tech (2014) before returning to Troy in 2015 to become the Trojans’ offensive line coach in 2015 when Brown became head coach. Prior to the 2018 season Moore also added the title of offensive coordinator. Under his direction, Troy averaged 31.5 points per game this past season, the 47th best mark in the FBS.
Al Pogue (cornerbacks/recruiting coordinator) – A native of Mobile, Ala., and 1998 graduate of Alabama State, where he was a three-year starting defensive back, Pogue spent his first 13 years after college coaching in the high school ranks, most of it in the Montgomery, Ala., area. He then worked for several seasons in an administrative role at Auburn, first as an offensive quality control coach and then as the football program’s director of high school relations. He was hired as a full-time assistant coach at Troy in 2014, was retained by Brown when he took over the Trojan program in 2015 and has been there ever since. His pass defense was 56th in the FBS ranks this past year, allowing 223.9 yards per game.
Sean Reagan (co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks) – A native of Conyers, Ga., Reagan is a 2008 graduate of North Georgia College. He moved into the college coaching ranks initially as a G.A. at Troy (2008-09), followed Brown for a year as a graduate assistant at Texas Tech (2010) and then returned to Troy as quarterback coach in 2011. He’s been with the Trojans ever since. As well as overseeing Troy’s quarterbacks, he was also in charge of the program’s running backs from 2015-17. Despite an injury to the Trojans’ starting quarterback, Kaleb Barker, Troy still averaged 215.3 passing yards per game this past season, 69th in the FBS.
Cornelius Williams (wide receivers) – A native of Hoover, Ala, Williams caught 63 passes in his career as a receiver at Troy (2006-09), when Brown was the Trojans’ OC (2008-09) or receiver coach (2006-07). After graduating from Troy in 2010, Williams got into the coaching ranks, spending one year at Murray State (2011), North Alabama (2012), Jacksonville State (2013) and UAB (2014) before returning to his alma mater when Brown became head coach in 2015. His receivers caught 248 passes for 2,799 yards with 25 TDs this past season.
Mark Perry (director of football operations) – A former quarterback at Kentucky (1997-2000) when Brown was a receiver with the Wildcats, the Columbus, Ohio native spent 14 years as a head high football coach in the state of Kentucky before joining his old Wildcat teammate at Troy this past year as not only director of operations but also the head of the Trojans’ high school relations.
Rafael Horton (strength & conditioning) – A Barnesville, Ga., native and 2010 graduate of Fort Valley State (Ga.) University, Horton is in his fourth year as the strength and conditioning coach at Troy. He previously spent two years at Kentucky, working with Brown when he was the Wildcats’ OC. Prior to UK, Horton was the strength and conditioning coach at Fort Valley State for five years and California University of Pennsylvania for one year.
Brian Bennett (director of player personnel) – A native of Mobile, Ala., Bennett is a 2011 graduate of Louisville. He previously worked on the staffs with Charlie Strong at Florida, Louisville and Texas before being hired by Brown in 2015 to help oversee Troy’s recruiting efforts.
Tomorrow we will continue with more potential candidates, both from WVU’s current staff and from elsewhere.