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COLUMN: With ‘The Climb’ in question, Neal Brown needs to give glimpse of future on offense

A week after WVU head coach Neal Brown said he was “pissed” about the Mountaineers’ performance against Texas Tech, they suffered their first blowout loss at Baylor on Saturday in Waco.

Outside of the first five minutes, the game was never close, and it was ugly all around on offense and defense in a 45-20 loss.

After showing improvement in Year 2 under Brown, WVU now sits at 2-4 and appears to have taken a major step back in Year 3, which has many questioning whether “The Climb,” which Brown coined when he arrive in Morgantown in January 2019, is the right choice for the program.

The problem is a climb continues to go up, and a 0-3 start to Big 12 play has fingers slipping off the rung.

Brown has to do something, especially on offense. Trying to do the same thing week in and week out isn’t getting the job done, and with Brown’s seat getting warmer and warmer — I say this knowing he will definitely be back for Year 4 — he needs to provide hope to a fan base that is questioning whether he’s the right man for the job.

Jarret Doege has started 18 games in his career at quarterback. Leddie Brown was an all-conference running back a year ago, but is on the backside of his college career. The wide receivers have been inconsistent for two years now. The offensive line has been the biggest disappointment on the team.

While it’s not an indictment on some of the veterans on the Mountaineers’ offense, which has struggled most of the season, especially in the second half, it’s time to get a look at the future — what do you have in quarterback Garrett Greene, running back Justin Johnson, wide receiver Kaden Prather and offensive lineman Jordan White?

The offense that was on the field for most of the 4th quarter against the Bears should get a chance regularly in meaningful snaps. With as often as it’s brought up that Brown inherited a bare cupboard from Dana Holgorsen, those four were all a part of Brown’s two full recruiting classes in 2020 and 2021 and are freshmen, with Greene and White redshirting last year. Johnson and Prather are true freshmen.

The offense is stale and you know what you have in Doege, someone who will stand in the pocket and try to make a throw. Greene’s skill set is the polar opposite, making a majority of his plays with his legs.

As good as Leddie Brown is, his future is more in the NFL than with the Mountaineers. Giving Johnson, or sophomore Tony Mathis, more playing time can help build for 2022.

Brown mentioned on his weekly radio show Thursday that Prather was going to get the start at Baylor, and while he did, he did not see a lot of playing time on offense after the first quarter.

Prather, a 4-star recruit from Maryland who already has the build of a senior at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, has a very high ceiling. Getting him reps now could pay dividends down the line.

White is playing more and more already at right guard, replacing Doug Nester, who hasn’t played well in recent weeks.

This isn’t to say the offense will instantly be fixed, nor is it saying Neal Brown doesn’t know how to use his personnel.

He needs to show there is hope beyond 2021. Playing the future of the program right now is a good step in doing that.

Heading into the bye week, the coaches need to come up with something to get a firm grasp back on the rung, because right now, many are barely hanging on.

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