For the last three years, Neal Brown has been the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech and helped the Red Raiders have one of the nation’s top overall offenses. Now the former Boyle County High School three-sport standout is set to come to Kentucky as offensive coordinator.
Mike Graham, staff writer for RedRaiderSports.com and the Dallas Morning News, has covered Texas Tech football and offered these insights on Brown:
Graham: “The thing you get about Neal is he knows football. There's a certain confidence in him that you see in head coaches. Whenever he is made available to the media after a game he acts like he's a head coach in the sense he gives an opening statement where he hopes he can answer all questions before they're asked. Honestly, just the way he carries himself, I think he’s a head coach wannabe who does indeed have the credentials to be a head coach.
“I think if Texas A&M's spread offense works in the SEC, the pistol formation can be very effective. You're taking the best of a downhill running game and merging it with a quarterback that only needs about three steps to get to a safe spot for a normally timed throw; just like you get in the pure shotgun. Neal didn't invent the pistol, but he's working on perfecting it and with how young he is I think he might fully discover what that scheme is capable of. With SEC defensive linemen coming after his quarterback, he can give Kentucky an advantage in the passing game.
“Tech ran the standard four-wide shotgun as well, but the pistol really suited quarterback Seth Doege and a group of talented running backs well. If they had a better offensive line this season, the season could have been better than 7-5.
“The Red Raiders started the season 6-1 with a triple overtime win against TCU to get that sixth win. I don’t think they fully recovered in time to play then-No. 2 Kansas State the next week on the road and then things snowballed on them in the L column as attrition on both sides of the ball piled up.”
Question: Does a move to Kentucky surprise you at all?
Graham: “Not at all. Neal played at Kentucky before transferring to UMass and is from Danville. I think Kentucky is getting a bargain because Neal is ready to be a head coach at a place like Western Kentucky, Southern Mississippi or even Louisiana Tech and begin that journey. I think he'll be a head coach at a big time program before the decade is over.
“To be honest, because Brown is associated with Tuberville who replaced Leach, whose firing rifted Tech fans, Brown won't unite the Texas Tech fan base. However, his offense is suited to the Big 12 style of play and it’s likely he could have done good things at Tech.”
Question: How did Brown relate to players?
Graham: “Quarterbacks love Neal. He really developed quarterback Seth Doege in Doege's season as the backup quarterback, which was Neal's first year as Tech's offensive coordinator, and then two seasons as the starter. I don't think you'll see Doege cut it in the NFL due to physical limitations but his mechanics are top notch, especially for the college game. I think next year's starter, Michael Brewer, will come out of the chute and be successful because of what Neal taught him regardless of if Neal is in Lubbock or not.
“Neal was huge in Brewer’s recruitment and Brewer won two state championships at Lake Travis as a quarterback and one as a receiver. Neal has an eye for talent, no doubt. He typically recruited guys Texas knew about but didn’t covet. But those guys would show up on campus and impress you out of the box.
“Neal also is very responsible for Tech's quarterback commit this year, Davis Webb. Webb competed in the Elite 11 camp, but at best is the third-best quarterback in the state according to recruiting services. I think Webb, a 6-foot-5, 195-pounder, could fill out to be Tech's first draftable quarterback. Of course, with Neal gone, Webb may open up his recruitment again. Whoever gets Webb won't regret it. The guy is a stud.”
Question: Why were some Texas Tech fans not thrilled with Brown’s offense despite the numbers Tech put up?
Graham: “I think Neal was too plain for Tech fans used to a decade of the quirky Mike Leach. Neal is very subdued. Neal also never coached the Red Raiders to No. 2 in the BCS as Leach did in 2008 after eight years of seven, eight, nine win seasons.
“I think the more educated fans came full circle on Neal though. As early as this season, Neal was viewed as too conservative and it seemed with a 14-point deficit and stalled in the third quarter the Red Raiders would punt the ball away. Leach made his bread and butter coming back from those deficits with aggressive play calling. But as this season wore on, supplemented by Tuberville explanations of why they called certain plays in certain situations, fans sensed Tuberville was holding the offense back with the parameters he set.”