WVU’s Brown Details Change Process In Evaluating Plays, Players

West Virginia head coach Neal Brown indicates the number of recent blown calls by the Oklahoma officiating crew
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown indicates the number of recent blown calls by the Oklahoma officiating crew

In the wake of a loss, a certain percentage of any fan base calls immediately for change. Whether it’s playcalling, playing time or the employment of the coaching staff, solutions to problems – some of which are real, some of which are not – flow across the zillions of communications channels available today.

Many of those fixes are unrealistic. Firing coaches left and right yields a program with the stability of Pitt in the early 2010s. An entire offensive or defensive scheme can’t be tossed, and a new one installed, in the four days of practice between games. There are, though, changes that can be implemented – a process that is already in place in some respects from week to week.

WVU head coach Neal Brown described the process of the selecting plays for each week’s game, and then calling them in the heat of the action. It’s a process that begins back in the spring (or as early as each team began practicing in this COVID-19 year).

“[Making changes] to the play piece is not (that tough),” he noted. “You start with a big glossary of plays, and you install them in the spring and fall camp. Then you pick and choose the plays you execute the best and what you see defensively (from your opponent). That really doesn’t change. And then you add some window dressing each week. Your base run schemes, your base pass concepts, your protections remain the same, and that true of NFL college, high school, whatever. You don’t take whole glossary into in each game. If plays aren’t working, or in particular, your quarterback doesn’t like a pass play, or your o-line isn’t good at a run play, you get away from them. You don’t ask them to execute what they can’t do.”

That process may be sound simple, but outside observers don’t have the chance to see all that work or understand what went in to deciding on the playcall sheet for that week. They can only go by what they see on the field, and when the results aren’t there, calls to do something different ramp up exponentially.

Without question, coaches have some play calls that they might make differently in hindsight, and not just based on the result. Brown has admitted that in the past. There were a couple in the Texas Tech game that raised some questions, including using smaller back Alec Sinkfield on a pair of third-down runs. However, West Virginia went into the game with a package of plays that produced chances for consistent gains, and in the majority of instances, it was the physical execution of those calls that hurt, not the calls themselves.

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That brings up the second part of making changes – personnel. In the past, Brown has detailed the process of evaluating each player. Game performance, practice performance, everything is graded and used to help determine who should play in that week’s game. Match-ups with the opposition can also play a part in who gets more action that week.

Brown notes that making a call to pull one player and replace him with another is tougher than selecting the plays to be used.

“With the players, a lot depends on [who] is behind them,” he explained. “You try to get the most out of your best players. When players are struggling, you try motivating and different techniques. If you have people who are equal, you play them. If not, you try to ride through some down (spots).”

Players in spotlight positions bear the brunt of this sort of speculation, while others in more anonymous spots escape some of it. For example, redshirt freshman Brandon Yates has won the left tackle position over sophomore Junior Uzebu, but even though WVU’s offensive line is still not consistent, there hasn’t been a great deal of attention on that position. Performance concerns at receiver, quarterback and running back are more visible, and draw more comment.

Brown isn’t averse to making changes, but also notes that giving up on young players too quickly is also a bad move. His dilemma, one that all coaches face, is deciding when to make those calls, especially for those players who show promise, make some plays, but aren’t as consistent as everyone, fans and coaches alike, hope.

* * * * * *

Brown did not see any special play or tactic that stood out in last year’s win at Kansas State, which comes to Milan Puskar Stadium on Halloween for a noon game this Saturday (noon on ESPN2). The 16th-ranked Wildcats are 4-1 overall and 4-0 in the Big 12, yet perhaps flying a bit under the radar to No. 6 Oklahoma State (5-0/4-0), which is undefeated overall.

“Like a lot of games in our league, it came down to fourth quarter,” he said of last year’s game plan and playcalling in WVU’s 24-20 victory of K-State in Manhattan. “We played pretty decent on defense, but I don’t know there was anything we particularly did. They hit a big post play early and hit some drag (passing routes) that had some success against us.”

West Virginia running back Leddie Brown sheds the tackle attempt of Kansas State's Wayne Jones
West Virginia running back Leddie Brown (4, white) sheds the tackle attempt of Kansas State’s Wayne Jones (4)

While Brown also complimented the Wildcat running game, K-State backs averaged just 3.2 yards per carry in the Mountaineers’ 24-20 win in 2019.

This year, Brown sees continuity, defensive consistency and improved quarterback play, as major factors in K-State’s success.

“Coach (Chris) Klieman has the guys playing extremely hard,” said Brown, one second-year coach of another. “The culture there for a long time has been about toughness, defense and special teams. Coach Klieman has been tremendously successful throughout his career. They had a tremendous culture at North Dakota State, and he came in (to Kansas State) and continued it. They don’t give you any easy yards. On special teams they have been dominant throughout the year.”

Brown singled out a few Wildcats who have stood out in his early look at this week’s opponent, noting that Klieman and his staff are good at getting the ball to their best players, including transfer tight end Briley Moore and freshman running back Deuce Vaughn.

* * * * * *

While Brown would like for the building of his program to include only forward steps, that’s not the case.

“We are a better football team than we were a year ago,” stated the coach of his 3-2 club. “Are we where we need to be culturally or where we want to be or where I hoped we’d be in year two? Probably not. We are still a work in progress.  We show signs, but sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back.”

* * * * * *

QUOTABLE: “It was a game that we didn’t finish. We got off to a slow start defensively and then got better. “But we didn’t finish it and most games in our league are going to go down to the wire. We’re 1-2 in those games, have to be better.”  – Neal Brown on the Texas Tech game

Home Page forums WVU’s Brown Details Change Process In Evaluating Plays, Players

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  • #126670

    In the wake of a loss, a certain percentage of any fan base calls immediately for change. Whether it’s playcalling, playing time or the employment of
    [See the full post at: WVU’s Brown Details Change Process In Evaluating Plays, Players]

    #126696

    Sorry, but that is just a lot of coach-speak.  Nothing substantive.

    #126698

    Don’t play it again Sam… that is in Sam James.  I think he has more drops than catches.  Plus the fumble and then the loafing on the last play.  He needs to be put to second string until he shows some consistency and the ability to shake of mistakes mentally.  Double down Sam on practicing your ball skills.  You’ll come around!

    #126699

    A bunch of hot air, prove it on field of play!

    #126701

    Not ready to throw Sam James on the pile just yet.  He was our best receiver last year with 69 catches.  Next best was 37 then 35 then a bunch at 19.  Maybe a new set of gloves?

    #126707

    It’s mental with James so not sure how to help him break out of it. Can’t penalize the team trying to help him through it though.

    As for the rest of it, focus on the throws you ask Doege to make, the use of 20, 3rd down calls and overall team discipline.

    #126718

    “Sorry, but that is just a lot of coach-speak. Nothing substantive.”

    Actually, it’s 100% substantive. It explains the process of selecting plays and how Brown and the staff make decisions on playing. I had already asked him at some point in the past about how the evaluations are done, and he explained that he and the staff grade every practice and game play to help determine playing time.

    What do you think is being hidden, or what is not substantive about his answers?

    #126724

    I’ve seen some fans question Brown’s impartiality. Claims that he plays “favorites” even though the backups are obviously better. I can’t understand how someone could actually believe this.

    Coaching is such a high pressure, results-oriented business. Coaches will do whatever it takes to win. They will not play favorites to the detriment of wins and losses. That is akin to professional suicide.

    I would be more apt to believe that the coaching staff practice and talent evaluations are flawed before I’d ever believe they play favorites.

    #126748

    Saw that we converted only 4 of 15 third down attempts!?
    Was there any discussion of the cause? The analysis would be interesting to see what the distance was on both the good and bad attempts? It would shed some light on how much the two downs prior contributed to the third down success rate! It seems like the third down attempt had a low percentage chance of success!? Could it be that a low number of third down attempts is the key to a good offense?

    #126754

    I can tell you 3 of them we didn’t get weren’t 3rd and long……we handed it off to Sinkfield

    Edit:  2 of those 3 we didn’t get

    #126783

    I find this line interesting:

    If plays aren’t working, or in particular, your quarterback doesn’t like a pass play, or your o-line isn’t good at a run play, you get away from them. You don’t ask them to execute what they can’t do.”

    Maybe HCNB should review his statement and heed his own advice as I see a lot of asking players to do what they obviously can’t do.  We used to make a living on 2-3 star players coming in and coaching them up…..now you all say our recruiting is much better, but the results aren’t apparent to date….. so I ask, is it player concentration?  Players buying into the program/system?  Players not FITTING into the system (square peg/round hole) or is it the coaches not capable of securing that level of execution/buy-in?  Are they actually buying into what they are selling to these kids, I certainly hope so.

    Something is definitely wrong here, I’m hoping this process just takes time, but I’m not seeing any improvement (other the defense playing a little better than last year, the offense is still inept for the most part) over last years season, if nothing else I’d like to see them stop shooting themselves in the foot with the lack of discipline and making dumb mistakes

    #126785

    Even I could sum up each answer from the presser… that’s what I meant by nothing substansive. 

    “[Making changes] to the play piece is not (that tough),” he noted. “You start with a big glossary of plays, and you install them in the spring and fall camp. Then you pick and choose the plays you execute the best and what you see defensively (from your opponent). That really doesn’t change. And then you add some window dressing each week. Your base run schemes, your base pass concepts, your protections remain the same, and that true of NFL college, high school, whatever. You don’t take whole glossary into in each game. If plays aren’t working, or in particular, your quarterback doesn’t like a pass play, or your o-line isn’t good at a run play, you get away from them. You don’t ask them to execute what they can’t do.”

    You call the plays that work, don’t call the plays that don’t.

    “With the players, a lot depends on [who] is behind them,” he explained. “You try to get the most out of your best players. When players are struggling, you try motivating and different techniques. If you have people who are equal, you play them. If not, you try to ride through some down (spots).”

    You play the best player and sometimes you don’t have an adequate backup so you play what you have.

    “Like a lot of games in our league, it came down to fourth quarter,” he said of last year’s game plan and playcalling in WVU’s 24-20 victory of K-State in Manhattan. “We played pretty decent on defense, but I don’t know there was anything we particularly did. They hit a big post play early and hit some drag (passing routes) that had some success against us.”

    KSt plays hard and makes some big plays.

    “Coach (Chris) Klieman has the guys playing extremely hard,” said Brown, one second-year coach of another. “The culture there for a long time has been about toughness, defense and special teams. Coach Klieman has been tremendously successful throughout his career. They had a tremendous culture at North Dakota State, and he came in (to Kansas State) and continued it. They don’t give you any easy yards. On special teams they have been dominant throughout the year.”

    Klieman is a good coach.  Good D and ST.

    “We are a better football team than we were a year ago,” stated the coach of his 3-2 club. “Are we where we need to be culturally or where we want to be or where I hoped we’d be in year two? Probably not. We are still a work in progress.  We show signs, but sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back.”

    We are making progress but not fast enough.

    QUOTABLE: “It was a game that we didn’t finish. We got off to a slow start defensively and then got better. “But we didn’t finish it and most games in our league are going to go down to the wire. We’re 1-2 in those games, have to be better.”  – Neal Brown on the Texas Tech game

    In close games we need to finish but we didn’t .  Most B12 games will be close and we need to get better.

    Kevin, you may have more information from other contact, but the rest of us don’t and rely on the pressers. 

    #126808

    What year is Brown in?
    #2?
    A couple of reminders:
    He does NOT have a team of all his players!
    He does NOT have a team of all his players!
    Mother Hubbard had it better!

    #126840

    mex,

    Just because you can summarize an answer doesn’t mean it doens’t provide anything substantive. Sure, most every coach reverts to coachspeak at times. Some never provide anything else. I dont put HCNB in that category, though.

     

    #126842

    Who’s insulted,
    Mex or Butler!?😜

    #126847

    Mixing my novice comments up with a guru like Mex is flattering.  😉

    No problem Kevin.  We can agree to disagree.  Your take is formulated on much more information from years of talking to the coaches.  We get the snippets from the pressers.

    NB pressers are close to a Mike Tomlin style presser.  He needs to adjusts his injury update to …. #20 has a knee, #3 may or may not be able to go.  #2 is working on getting back in game shape. …..

    #126850

    You can summarize anything like that man.  GoT season 1 summary in your style (without major spoilers):  A rural noble family is forced to move to the big city and gets mixed up in crazy royal plots while something dangerous awakens in the far north, many people die.

    Doesn’t mean nothing happens.

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Home Page forums WVU’s Brown Details Change Process In Evaluating Plays, Players

Home Page forums WVU’s Brown Details Change Process In Evaluating Plays, Players