Brown making the most of limited coaching time

AP PHOTO West Virginia head coach Neal Brown talks to senior offensive lineman Colton McKivitz during a game against N.C. State in Morgantown, W.Va.

MORGANTOWN – Four hours a week. That is not much time when you are the head coach of a Power Five football team.

But that is the situation WVU’s Neal Brown finds himself in as the coronavirus continues to have a crippling stranglehold on the American lifestyle. Brown and his fellow Big 12 coaches are currently operating under a conference mandate of only having four hours of interaction with their respective teams.

Obviously that time is consumed by meetings via video conferencing, bringing Brown, his staff and his players all on the same page, albeit in abbreviated fashion.

“This is a new time for coaches,” Brown said during Wednesday’s teleconference with the media. “I think we are learning as we go. It’s not something we covered, so we are learning as we go. The biggest thing is establishing a routine for the players.”

The Brown-scripted routine features a player check-in each day at 10 a.m. Eastern time on Zoom.

Position sessions are conducted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while team meetings are staged on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Brown noted that all the meeting times are documented to adhere with compliance regulations.

“I think 30 minutes for most position groups – quarterbacks and offensive linemen can go a little bit longer – but we try to stick to about 30 minutes,” Brown said. “On these Zoom meetings, we figured out that 15 to 20 minutes is probably the max. We give them a break or try to break them up. The biggest thing right now is to connect.”

The pandemic-induced shutdown has yielded many unique challenges for coaches. One of the biggest was making sure players take the video meetings as serious as the ones held in their Morgantown facilities.

“That meant finding a place in their home or wherever they’re at and making sure they’re sitting down, having something to write with, having something to write on, making sure they’re dressed appropriately and really in the mindset of learning,” Brown noted. “You could easily be in the car. It’s a foreign concept because they’re on their phones, iPads or whatever. But they’ve got to sit there and be present just like they were in the meeting.

“The biggest thing we are losing is repetition. You can’t make up the timing of plays you get in spring,” he continued. “You don’t get those back. So the early season may not be as clean as it usually is.”

Brown was able to hold just two days of spring drills before the pandemic halted the grid work. The loss of vital spring camp work is compounded by the uncertainty of when football will resume. Consequently, it is no easy task for Brown to script a game plan.

“This is really a difficult deal. You’re preparing for so many unknowns. Just from a football standpoint, we’ve got to have expectations for when we return – whatever date that is. We have to clearly define what those expectations are,” he said. “What do we expect our players to know when we get back? Whether that’s July 1 or September. What kind of shape do we expect them to be in? Let’s define those expectations so they can work towards that, from now to whenever that date is that’s unknown in the future.”

Brown does see one possible positive emanating from this global crisis.

“I do think, in the long term, it will be beneficial,” he said. “It’s forcing us to be a player-led team at this point. I probably wouldn’t have thought we’d have been ready for that, so we’ve had to push the accelerator a little bit on that. So I do think, long term, it’ll be a positive.”

WVU is scheduled to open the 2020 campaign Sept. 5 against Florida State in Atlanta. The Mountaineers’ homer opener is set for Sept. 12 with Eastern Kentucky visiting Milan Puskar Stadium.


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