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July 16, 2019

Neal Brown

Arlington, Texas

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by West Virginia coach, Neal Brown. Coach, welcome, and your thoughts about the upcoming season.

NEAL BROWN: Good morning, what a great event. Thank you all for being here. I appreciate everybody in this stadium, what they do for our great game. I'm proud to represent West Virginia and the great people in the state of West Virginia accompanied by four of our best representatives from our team, wide receiver T.J. Simmons, offensive lineman Colton McKivitz, cornerback Keith Washington Jr. and defensive lineman Reese Donahue. Excited to be back in the Big 12. Last was a coordinator here in 2012. Excited about the direction of this league under Commissioner Bowlsby. I definitely think we're on the tick. Ready or not it is football season and we are ready to go.

Our players and staff, I can't compliment them anymore of how they bought into what we're doing and how we're building our program. We're young, very inexperienced. What we're going to look like in the fall I'm not sure yet. I'm really not. We have had 15 on-field practices. We're going to be a group that really grows and improves as we go through our Big 12 Conference and what is a very challenging schedule, but I do like our guys. I like our guys. They're hungry, very humble, and I'm looking forward to working with them. It's going to be a fun group. With that I will open it up to questions.

Q. Neal, we have been hearing stories about how well you've been received by the West Virginia fans. Did that come about in part because of anything you did? Or was that just natural, you and the fan base had a great connection?
NEAL BROWN: I think it's because we're undefeated. No, it's a couple things. I think our marketing staff and the people within our administration have done a really good job presenting us to the state.

I think there is a lot of relate ability from Kentucky, Brooke and I, my wife, we're five hours from our hometown and I can't say enough about how we've been received, really, and not only myself and my family but also our staff and their families. It's exciting. We've got our hands full. It's one of those things where there's so much energy and so much excitement, you want to make sure that they understand that we lost a lot from last year, Barry, and we're going to be a young football team and I think our fan base understands that and there's going to be some patience.

Q. You guys have a rigorous schedule this year, eleven Power 5 opponents and West Virginia is one of only four teams in the country that have to type of schedule. You guys have that schedule for the next four years where you have a Power 5 opponent. Is this something you think your guys embrace and is it something you believe other schools should push toward?
NEAL BROWN: First of all I knew what the schedule was when I took the job. When you look at the schedule it is what it is. We don't talk to our players about it, kind of in a one-game mind-set, that's cliché. I thought we were one of three Power 5 teams playing 11 Power 5 games. It's a very challenging schedule, if you look at our future schedules, it's challenging. I do think that we have to, being where we fit geographically. I think it's important for us to play natural rivals, the series with Pitt is coming up, we play Virginia Tech. Some of those type games make sense because it's hard for our fan base to travel, you know, so those geographic games and natural rivalries, I think they're important for us to play.

Q. Coach, how are things coming along finding players like Zacc Weldon that allowed you to have a smash mouth approach at Troy and how big of a part of the plan is that to introduce that dimension to a spread, sometimes finesse league in the Big 12?
NEAL BROWN: First of all, I'm impressed that you came up with Zacc Weldon. I'm really, really impressed with that. Zacc Weldon was a walk-on for us at Troy, because I'm sure you may be the only one in this room who knows who Zacc Weldon is, and I hope his mom is listening. Zacc Weldon was an S-back, what is a fullback in our system, and he walked on for us and ended up playing 40-plus snaps over the last 3 years. So good research. Kudos to you. The good thing about that is if you look at who we are as West Virginia University, who we are as a football program, who we are as a state, really at the core we're hard-working, blue collar people that are prideful and that lends itself to finding guys like that, that are unselfish, they're giving and so we're in the hunt for that position. We've got a couple of guys that are competing to do that. I do think it's important and like I said, being a play caller in this league three years I do understand what we're getting into. This is a league with a ton of dynamic offensive play callers, quarterbacks, playmakers on the offensive side. You will have to score to win games, but I do think it's important if you look at the teams that have had the most success it's been the teams that have been able to run the ball, especially when people know you're going to run the ball. Those are the teams that have won close games.

Q. Coach, you have seen this league from the inside, you've seen it from the outside. There are perceptions about defense in the Big 12. I was curious what your thoughts are and what you are preparing to expect.
NEAL BROWN: Be careful how I say this because I know it was talked about yesterday, but there has been an extremely high level of quarterback play in this league going back to 2008 or so. The run of quarterbacks over the last 10 to 12 years has been remarkable. Regardless of what conference you're in, it's hard to defend them. It's hard to defend those type of quarterbacks. I do think the defenses in this league are better than maybe what's presented on a natural stage.

I think that Commissioner Bob Bowlsby talked about the bowl game production from the defensive teams and that's something that needs to be noted.

If you look at what's being done in this league, I think it is changing. I think that some of the recent hires it will continue to improve but the identity in this league has been so far as an offensive football league and I think that goes back to the play caller and the dynamic offensive skill positions.

Q. Coach, your predecessor at West Virginia took a lot of transfers and I'm just wondering, do you feel like that's West Virginia's niche in recruiting or will your focus be more on high school players?
NEAL BROWN: I think you have a mix. We're always going to try to build our team through the high school football recruiting. I think that's how you build your foundation. I think it's important to have guys in your program for four and five years, but we're also going to be creative in how we build our roster. If you look at what we've done over the summer you'll see that. We're going to be creative, and really it's a year-long approach to building our roster.

We will take transfers, that's something, whether you're at West Virginia or any of the other nine teams in this league everybody has done that and we will continue to do that but we're going to build our program through high school football players.

Q. Neal, I wanted to ask you about your office. When you were calling plays at Tech, 2010 through 2012, I don't think the Big 12 was quite as quick and up-tempo as it is now or has been. How much do you think you need to tweak your offense to get it to be Big 12 ready? As far as speed it up?
NEAL BROWN: We had a lot of success at Texas Tech and during that time it was, looking around the room, several of you guys were covering the league there in '10, '11 and '12 when we were at Texas Tech. Those are some of the best offenses in the country at that time. I think you change, the game evolves. We won't look the same that we did. Last time I called plays in this league in 2012 at Texas Tech. We've evolved. We've changed. We are probably a little bit more balanced now than we were at that point. I think regardless of the conference you're in it's about taking the players that you have and taking their strengths and attacking the defensive weaknesses. So I think that never changes, regardless of level and regardless of conference. I think that's what the best offensive play callers try to do.

Q. I just wanted your thoughts on the uniqueness of being part of a conference with four new coaches, you being one of them and be not just new coaches but coaches with the level of success that you four have had?
NEAL BROWN: Well, it is. I think there were quality hires across the league. This is a league of tremendous coaches and really innovative coaches, guys that have won at different levels. I grew up in a family of educators, really been around sports almost all my life. What I really respect about the group of head coaches in this league is so many of them worked their way up from lower levels, lower positions and worked their way up to really the highest level of Power 5 college football.

THE MODERATOR: Okay, Coach, they're going to let you off easy. Welcome to the league and good luck this season.

NEAL BROWN: Thank you, all. Again, I appreciate what you do for us and what you do for our league.

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