MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Even in the year of a coaching change, player development is one of the primary goals of spring football.
While plenty of emphasis has been placed on teaching players new plays and terminology in Neal Brown’s first spring at West Virginia, the element of development is not being overlooked.
Left guard Michael Brown is among those making the most progress since the end of last season.
“Mike has probably progressed more than anybody on the offense,” said co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Moore. “He’s really progressing. He studies really hard; he’s up here twice a day. He’s constantly studying film. He’s constantly trying to make himself better.”
Brown was part of the first generation of players to benefit from the NCAA’s relaxation of redshirt rules last year. He played in four games, but will be eligible to compete as a junior once again in 2019.
Brown came to West Virginia from Eastern Arizona Junior College along with his older brother Joe prior to last season. Joe was originally expected to have two years of eligibility, but was a participant in West Virginia’s pro day last month.
That leaves the younger Brown as the only one of the brothers remaining on the roster. He’s still a bit raw, but Moore said that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Brown provides the rare opportunity for a position coach to work with a blank canvas.
“The good thing about it is he doesn’t have a lot of bad habits,” Moore said. “He’s never been the guy who’s been put in the position now where he has to play. You have to coach him every day, and he’s really responding well to it. It’s just the fundamentals of everything.”
At 355 pounds, Brown certainly possesses the strength to be a force on the interior line. Stamina, however, remains a work in progress. At the moment Brown is 30 pounds heavier than any of his teammates.
Even at his current size, Moore said that Brown is surprisingly nimble.
“He moves well. The biggest thing right now is sustaining that movement,” Moore said. “That’s what concerns me more than anything, is being able to get to a weight where you can play 80 plays. He can play 10 plays as hard as anybody, but it’s the next 70 that you have to make sure about.”
The strength and conditioning and nutrition staffs are working with Brown to improve that physique by the start of the season.
“He does extra conditioning,” Moore said. “We make sure we watch what he eats. He’s going to get there.”
Provided that moment happens, Moore has reason to believe Brown will establish himself as a starter.
“He’s doing a good job of taking care of his body,” Moore said. “If he’ll continue to progress, I can actually see him staying in that position as the starting guard.”