Quick hits: Neal Brown on his approach to the open week and leadership within an “emotionally spent” locker room

Gold and Blue Nation

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — WVU football entered its open week with a 2-4 overall record and riding a three-game losing streak, and it’s head coach Neal Brown’s job to “fix” things. 

But instead of moving forward with a negative attitude, the third-year leader of the Mountaineers is taking a different approach to evaluating his slumping team’s areas of need. 

These are the biggest takeaways from Brown’s latest press conference: 

“We’re not at a funeral. Just lost a couple football games.”

The head coach remains jovial, despite his team’s disappointing start in 2021. He opened his weekly press conference with that quote. 

But inside Milan Puskar Center, Brown admits the mood is definitively downtrodden, and that players are both “physically beat up” and “emotionally spent.” 

“Just talking to players on the phone and text, and then meeting with staff, I think everybody in this building is frustrated,” Brown said. “Nobody likes losing, that’s obvious. I know our fans are frustrated.” 

Brown said he’ll focus on three priorities during the open week: reflecting on what’s been good and bad, repairing what is fixable and readjusting the plan for the rest of the season. 

His mentality through that process will reflect the opening statement at his press conference.

“We’ve got a lot of football left. We’ve got half a season,” Brown said. “Everything is doom and gloom right now. I don’t think you approach it like that. From where I’m sitting, and when I sit in front of the team here [this afternoon], I’m not gonna be miserable.” 

On Leadership 

In a difficult situation like the one facing the Mountaineers, leadership is key. The head coach is actively encouraging leaders to emerge from his team.

It’s easy to be a leader when you’re winning, he said. Right now, though, it’ll be much harder to lead, but it’s necessary.

“Right now is when we need leadership, not only from myself but from our assistant coaches, from the leaders we have on our team. I think this is a time you lock in, you focus on your people,” Brown said. “We’ve got to pour into our people, we gotta meet it head on. It is what it is. We had a bad performance. I don’t think you avoid it. You meet it head on, and we go about your work.”

He added: “It’s gonna be a challenge, but it’s doable. It’s doable. We’ve played better football, and we will play better football.” 

Is everything really on the table? 

After the 45-20 loss to Baylor, Brown said that “everything is on the table” when it comes to fixing West Virginia’s biggest issues. 

When asked Tuesday what he meant, the head coach admitted that he didn’t have “any big announcements” planned for his press conference. Instead, he intends to meet with his players and assistants and listen to their concerns. 

“What I’m gonna do a lot over the next two days is listen…and then have a plan moving forward on Thursday about how we’re gonna attack not only TCU, but really the next six games,” Brown said. 

He added that he isn’t hitting the “panic button” on this season, and hasn’t lost belief in his players or staff, but he realizes that changes need to be made in order for the Mountaineers to make progress this fall. 

“You can’t continue to do the same things if they’re not working,” Brown said. “That’s really what the process of this week is about, is figuring out how we build on our positives, how do we diminish where our deficiencies are, are there some young guys who give us a better opportunity, and where do we readjust our planning? But the basics and really the tenants of our program are not changing.” 

Personnel update

Brown noted that defensive lineman Darel Middleton is no longer with the team. The Tennessee transfer only appeared in three games for the Mountaineers. He didn’t make the trip to Baylor and most recently appeared against Oklahoma. 

The head coach added that safety Kerry Martin Jr. hasn’t practiced since last Monday due to an illness. 

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