Fans are looking to set their expectations for the upcoming 2019 season. With new head coach Neal Brown steering the ship, a wide range of possibilities come into play. When Dana Holgorsen willingly accepted a job offer in the Lone Star State following the 2018 season, some WVU fans were left confused. Holgorsen led the Mountaineers to multiple 10 win seasons but was unable to ever clench the BIG 12 Title, much-less defeat Oklahoma. West Virginia is faced with a better chance than ever for a fresh start under experienced coach, Neal Brown.
While Holgorsen left on his own, many schools fire their head coach hoping for their program to take that next step. Schools look to start chasing National Titles by just swapping in a new face. However, it must not be forgotten how many components make up an award winning football season. The secret sauce to consistently contending for a National Title includes a multi-faceted approach. Main keys would be: a program with a cooperative offensive system and defensive scheme, recruiting the right players and developing them correctly. Most importantly, the players need to be invested in owning the idea of building a championship culture.
Nebraska had long-standing success under head coach, Bo Pelini, leading the team through a six year span that saw three ten win seasons and three nine win seasons. Despite the record, Husker fans become impatient because they couldn’t get back to their glory years of the 80’s and 90’s. Pelini was let go in hopes of regaining their former conference dominance. Mike Riley, past Oregon State coach, was hired to replace the Huskers’ program on top of college football. Instead, the they’ve endured three losing seasons in the last four years and Riley was let go in 2018. Scott Frost has now been placed in charge of taking the Huskers back to the promise land. Nebraska is not the only school that has faced this outcome – others include University of Tennessee, Virginia Tech, and University of Michigan after the departure of Lloyd Carr. Programs like these face an uphill climb after letting go their long-tenured, successful coaches as a quick fix.
On the contrary, check out the University of Central Florida. The Knights endured a 0-12 season in 2015, just two years removed from a 12-1 campaign. UCF decided to make a change and hired the aforementioned Scott Frost. Two short years later, they won the American Conference and capped off an undefeated season by beating SEC powerhouse, Auburn, in the Sugar Bowl.
After coaching at WVU for eight years, Holgorsen has made the switch to coach for University of Houston. This brought WVU’s Athletic Director, Shane Lyons, to hire Neal Brown from Troy University to lead the Mountaineers. Now the thoughts on every fan’s mind is, ‘What do we expect this season? Where is the program heading? Will 2019 be OUR year?’ Brown will run an entirely new offensive system and defensive scheme. Brown has changed the recruiting style significantly as he has shifted away from Texas and is more focused on other neighboring states as well as the deep south. In terms of culture, Brown is getting creative: he recently took the entire team and coaching staff deep into the heart of the Earth on a coal mine tour. It is obvious he hopes to facilitate unity within the program and the state it represents.
The difficult part of implementing a competitive, championship culture is that growth takes time. Fairytale football seasons don’t just happen overnight. The loss of players such as Will Grier, David Long Jr, and Yodny Cajuste to NFL careers, left large roster and talents gaps to fill for the 2019 season. On the bright side, WVU fans should stay hopeful as Neal Brown begins to implement his plan. Brown built an exceptionally successful program at Troy University over time. It is important not to become impatient as WVU faces necessary growing pains; learning from other programs that opted for a quick fix and has since left them in the hole.
Fans will have a chance to see new players and schemes in action soon; the Mountaineers will begin their new era against JMU, in Morgantown, on August 31st.