Football, Sports, WVU Sports

WVU’s assistant coaches say key returners, transfers have the Mountaineers’ culture at an all-time high

MORGANTOWN — The amount of year-over-year player movement possible now in college football can make it hard for a team to establish its culture. If players are coming and going from programs every year or two, establishing and maintaining a positive lockerroom culture can be a real difficulty.

Two of WVU’s assistant coaches, Matt Moore and ShaDon Brown, have taken different roads to build the culture inside their position rooms, but seem to have ended up in the same positive place.

Moore, the assistant head coach and offensive line coach, has had the benefit of leading a room full of guys who have stuck around. Zach Frazier, Doug Nester, Wyatt Milum, Ja’Quay Hubbard and Brandon Yates are all multiple-year contributors who have stayed out of the transfer portal.

“Having three guys from West Virginia is big,” Moore said of Frazier, Nester and Milum. “Three really, really good players who love this state and love the people in this state and aren’t just looking to jump on the next bus or go to the highest bidder. It’s nice to have those guys and they’re a tight-knit group.”

With Frazier (Fairmont), Nester (Kenova) and Milum (Kenova) all being in-state products, Moore said the love they have for West Virginia and their pride for playing at WVU all trickles down to the rest of the group.

“It shapes the whole room,” he said. “You talk about those three guys and the pride that they have playing here. Having those core guys in my room that work really, really hard, do things right and are accountable, the young guys who walk into the room, even though they may not be from here, they see that’s how you’re supposed to do things. That’s how you build a room, you get a bunch of guys all pulling in the same direction.”

Brown, the co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, has built the culture in the secondary by bringing in high-character transfers.

“I’m really proud of the transfers we’ve brought in,” Brown said. “We do a really long vetting process, sometimes too long for my liking, but (head coach Neal Brown) is really diligent with who we bring into the fold because we don’t want people to destroy the culture that we have set.”

WVU added four transfers to its secondary this offseason, cornerbacks Montre Miller and Beanie Bishop and safeties Keyshawn Cobb and Anthony Wilson.

“I think the culture’s much, much better,” ShaDon Brown said. “It’s taken another step this year and we’ve brought guys in who have blended well and have enhanced the culture with just their focus and their maturity.”

Brown said Bishop, who joined the team over the summer, has stepped right in and become the leader in the cornerback room.

“He’s the alpha in the room, he’s already taken on the leadership role in the room,” Brown said. “From him only being here two months, you wouldn’t think that would be the case but his personality is an alpha personality.”

At the other end of the leadership spectrum, Brown said Wilson has been a big addition to the culture of the safety room not because of what he says, but the things he’s done.

“He’s a focused dude and that’s been good for our room because he’s raised the level of play of the people around him,” Brown said. “I left the staff room at 10:30 p.m. the other night and Anthony Wilson was in the safety room watching film…Now you look up at 6 p.m. after dinner and you see three freshmen and Anthony Wilson (watching film). We’re not telling them to do that, but we’ve brought in the right type of people and guys gravitate toward them.”

While it’s worked out for WVU this year, Brown made sure to point out that trying to build culture through the transfer portal is risky business.

“Sometimes that’s hard because you’re trying to fill your roster,” Brown said, “but if you fill it with the wrong people — and we’ve all made mistakes doing that — then everything you’ve built can be torn down immediately by one person.”