Neal Brown likes where his West Virginia football program is at.
The Mountaineers are coming off a 6-4 season on the field and are hoping to make the next step this coming fall with a challenging slate that features 11 power five opponents, one of four teams in the nation to do so.
But along with on the field, there’s progress being made away from it, too.
The football program just finished up a $55 million renovation in program enhancements which has had a positive effect on the perception of the program as well as recruiting.
The Mountaineers currently sit inside the top 25 national rankings in recruiting with 13 commitments and several other top targets set to decide this month.
“We’ve got a lot of momentum in recruiting right now,” Brown said.
Academically, West Virginia had a 3.1 team grade-point-average in the spring semester and the Mountaineers have graduated 100-percent of their players over the last 19-months.
But while it remains to be seen how the football program will perform this fall, Brown is confident that in at least one area it’s at an all-time high.
“Our buy in is extremely high right now and we’ve made tremendous progress over the last two years with the culture within our football program,” he said.
The groundwork for that was laid when West Virginia turned the corner and won two of their final three games on the road to close out the 2019 season. Last season, then allowed another step forward despite all the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I really feel strongly if we were able to play out full schedule, the improvement would have been even more so,” he said. “If you look at the improvement offensively and defensively, we were one of the most improved units on both sides of the ball. That’s when it starts. We have to continue to grow and I think we are. It’s a culture and it’s talent. All of those things have to continue to improve.”
And if the Mountaineers are going to take that next step it needs to occur o the offensive side.
“So we finished 6-4 last year. Really, we’re in the game. The other three games, right, till about the two-minute mark with an opportunity with the ball to score and take the lead in two of those games. So, again, defensively you look at the scores of those games, we were right into it. What we have to do is — third downs and red zone — are the most important pieces for us offensively to take advantage of. We have to score touchdowns. We’re going to kick field goals in the red zone, and then on third down we have to be able to convert, especially in the middle,” Brown said.
West Virginia has been picked sixth in the pre-season Big 12 poll and Brown has made it clear that the gauntlet has been thrown down for his team to prove the prognosticators wrong.
“You either prove them right or prove them wrong. And our goal this season is to prove them wrong and to do that you have to play better and to play better you have to practice better,” he said. “That’s our goal and what we’re focused on. Our theme for this year is to be better.”