Football, Sports, WVU Sports

Still displeased with preseason perceptions, Brown and WVU are going into 2024 as underdogs once again

This time last year, West Virginia football coach Neal Brown sat on the stage at Big 12 media days in Dallas and told the members of the press how wrong they were for picking his Mountaineers to finish dead last in the conference.

“I stood up here a year ago, and we were picked 14th and I said we wouldn’t be there,” Brown said on day two of the 2024 Big 12 Football Media Days in Las Vegas on Tuesday. “And our team proved me right.”

Brown sat on the stage during his press conference on Tuesday and didn’t call out the media to the same extent as last year, but still expressed displeasure with how his team is being evaluated this summer.

“We’re coming off a 9-4 (season), I look at most of the preseason Top 25 (lists), we’re not in it,” Brown said. “With a team that finished strong last year, that returns a lot of production, that has one of the most-dynamic players in all of college football in (quarterback) Garrett Greene … and we’re picked seventh in the league. And we’re not in most of these preseason Top 25s.”

WVU finished the 2023 season in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Big 12. The Mountaineers were then picked seventh in this year’s Big 12 preseason poll, behind every team they were tied with at the end of 2023, a team that had a worse conference record last season, Kansas, and two newcomers from the Pac-12 — Utah and Arizona.

Just as the Mountaineers did last year, Brown thinks the team will once again rally around its preseason ranking to finish 2024 better than expected.

“That is something we rallied around, that 14,” Brown said. “And now it’s similar.

“I think there’s a similar dynamic that works with this team, too. And, more importantly, to me on a personal level, I believe some of our players are undervalued.”

Brown brought up Greene and left tackle Wyatt Milum, who were both with him in Vegas, as WVU players he believes aren’t getting the national recognition that they deserve.

“Garrett Greene, he’s not getting talked about as much as some other (quarterbacks), and his production speaks for itself,” Brown said. “Wyatt Milum, we feel he’s as good or better than any offensive lineman in the country. … I could go on.”

Millum was the team’s lone representative on the Preseason All-Big 12 team. Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders was chosen for the team over Greene.

Brown said he’s realized that playing the role of the underdog is the identity his team needs to have in order to be successful at West Virginia.

“The identity piece for us is something that we really spent a lot of time on over the last 19 months of who we need to be to be successful in West Virginia,” Brown said. “I feel like we found that, and our team has bought into it. We’re going to be a tough unit that is really disciplined and that plays smart football, and we do those things with an underdog mentality and a chip on our shoulder.”

Prior to being picked 14th last offseason, WVU was 22-25 in four seasons under Brown. The Mountaineers went 9-4 last season after embracing an underdog mentality and Brown hopes the team will pull off a similar feat this season.

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