Football, Sports, WVU Sports

Brown believes in defensive coaching staff despite 2022 struggles

MORGANTOWN — WVU football coach Neal Brown has no delusions about how the Mountaineers’ 2022 season went.

“It wasn’t good enough,” Brown said Monday in his first press conference of 2023. “It’s on me, I accept it. It wasn’t good enough.” 

Brown has had plenty of time to reflect on what went wrong last season and found issues on both sides of the ball. Offensively, he feels the team did not live up to its talent level.

“I really felt like we underachieved on that side of the ball,” he said. “Last fall was really the first point where I felt really good about our personnel from an experience and a talent level where I really felt like we could compete week in and week out against the top of our league, and we just didn’t do that. We didn’t give ourselves enough chances.”

In response, Brown has made several changes to the offense this offseason, the biggest being the promotion of Chad Scott to offensive coordinator to replace Graham Harrell. Brown has also hired two new offensive assistants this month in Bilal Marshall and Blaine Stewart.

WVU has also brought in several offensive skill players via the transfer portal to help augment the team’s robust rushing attack.

Defensively, Brown said the team just didn’t play well enough.

“Not up to our standard,” he said. “If you look at how we played defense over the first three years here, we established a way that we wanted to play. In a high percentage of our contests, we gave ourselves a chance to win and then last year it just wasn’t.”

Unlike on the offensive side, however, Brown has made no changes to his defensive staff.

“The easiest thing to do a lot of times is just start firing people,” Brown said. “When I started really evaluating where we were defensively, I get to this; we need to win now, we need to have a winning season. How do we make these improvements within a nine-month period to get to where we need to be in the fall? After going through and evaluating everything, the best way, in my opinion, is consistency.”

In keeping his defensive staff intact, Brown is saying he believes the unit’s regression in 2022 is an outlier and not the start of a downward trend. WVU’s defense allowed 9.1 more points per game and over 60 more yards per game in 2022 than it did in 2021.

“I believe in our group, I believe in (defensive coordinator) Jordan Lesley, I believe in our defensive staff,” Brown said. “You don’t just forget how to coach in a one-year period.”

Brown pointed out that WVU’s defense ranked favorably in the Big 12 in a lot of categories in 2020 and 2021 and said the drop-off last season was more a product of personnel rather than coaching.

“For us to be better, I think consistency and cohesiveness are more important and the issues we need to fix are more in-house,” he explained. “When you start talking about staff changes and things like that, it shifts the blame where, at the end of the day, it’s on me. I believe we have the people in this building that I trust who can get it fixed. How do I know they can get it fixed? Because we got it done before.”

Like with the offense, Brown has brought in several players through the transfer portal to help the defense, including Kent State cornerback Montre Miller and defensive tackles Fatorma Mulbah (Penn State) and Davoan Hawkins (Tennessee State).

“I’m keenly aware that we need to win,” Brown said. “Every decision that we’ve made within the last six to eight weeks has been that we need to win. Time will tell, but every decision that I’ve made has been for us to have better results in 2023.”

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