Big 12 News

Neal Brown Looking to Bounce Back in 2023 With a ‘Chip on His Shoulder’

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Media Days

The West Virginia Mountaineers are fresh off a disappointing 2022 season where the program finished in ninth place in the Big 12 Conference. The Mountaineers finished their season with an overall record of 5-7, alongside an abysmal conference record of 3-6. If West Virginia looks to bounce back in the upcoming season, things are going to quickly change from last year for Neal Brown.

This offseason Mountaineers were heavily active in the transfer portal and added a ton of good athletes to the mix. While West Virginia did finish second-to-last in the Big 12 Conference last year, Neal Brown and his staff have hit the portal hard recruiting players to help West Virginia bounce back in 2023.


Offensively, the Mountaineers return six starters including the running back duo of CJ Donaldson and Justin Johnson. West Virginia saw Tony Mathis enter the transfer portal and eventually commit to Houston, but with two reliable backs in Donaldson and Johnson the ground game should be solid. It also helps to have a veteran offensive line in front of them as well. “We have 132 starts on our offensive line. If that’s not the most in the country it has to be close”. West Virginia head coach Neal Brown said. “Within that group, we have four former freshmen All-Americans, and we have three All-Conference type players up front.”

Perhaps the biggest change to the offense will be the changes at offensive coordinator and at quarterback. Graham Harrell is gone, and West Virginia promoted running backs coach Chad Scott. However, Neal Brown told ESPN’s Heather Dinich earlier on Thursday morning that he will be the one calling the plays this season. As for those changes to the offense? Brown said, “We have to be more explosive in the passing game.”


If the passing game is going to be more explosive, they will need better play from the quarterback position. JT Daniels transferred out and now West Virginia has a quarterback battle on their hands between Nicco Marchiol and Garrett Greene that will play out in fall camp.  

Defensively, West Virginia returns seven starters including players such as linebacker Lee Kpogba who led the Mountaineers in tackles with 92 total tackles last season. The Mountaineers also added safety Aubrey Burks from last year’s squad, who quickly became a key member on the defensive side of the ball. Burks totaled 66 tackles, one sack, one interception, and two pass breakups in his sophomore campaign, and is ready to take that next step going into his junior season.

Last season, the Mountaineers gave up the second most points in the Big 12 and had the second-worst pass defense in the conference as well. But Neal Brown knows that his defense has to get better, and he believes they will. When asked about his defense Brown said, “We are going to be the most improved units in the Big 12 if not in the entire country.”


When it comes to the media, Neal Brown didn’t hesitate to give us an opinion on his team being picked to finish last in the preseason poll. “I am upset with the media poll. I definitely do not agree with it.” Brown said. “The chip was already on the shoulder, and this just increases the size of that chip.”

West Virginia will begin their season on the road against Penn State on September 2nd, before taking on the Texas Tech Red Raiders in Morgantown to kick off Big 12 play. Hopefully, for Neal Brown’s sake, he can use the giant chip on his team’s shoulders to bounce back in 2023.

Most Popular

To Top