ShaDon Brown now primary voice for WVU secondary | News, Sports, Jobs


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West Virginia defensive backs coach ShaDon Brown makes an emphatic point to Aden Tagaloa-Nelson (28), Israel Boyce (18) and Zae Jennings (17).

MORGANTOWN — In West Virginia football, which is wrapping up its second week of spring practice today, ShaDon Brown has become the primary voice for the team’s secondary.

In a subtle, yet important move, Coach Neal Brown has combined the entire secondary under the other Brown’s watch, rather than splitting the duties with cornerbacks, safeties and spears coaches.

ShaDon Brown holds the title of co-defensive coordinator but when last year’s cornerback coach Dontae Wright decided to join former WVU coach Gerad Parker’s staff after was named head coach at Troy, the two Browns got together to discuss reshaping the structure of the secondary staff.

Behind the decision to put one man in charge was the idea it would eliminate any confusion in communication by having the corners and safeties hearing a message from different coaches.

Previously, the corners and safeties met with different coaches in different rooms.

“I love having one voice in the room,” ShaDon Brown said. “When I took this job (three years ago), there was already a safeties coach in place and what was best for our staff was for myself to coach corners. When we had a staff change, I felt it was best to have one voice in there.

“Everybody in here can say the same thing, but say it differently,” Brown went on. “You’re not going to say the words exactly like the guy sitting to the right or the left of you. Now there’s one voice, one way of speaking it and one way of teaching it. Now, as a whole secondary, when there’s a question or an issue, they’re coming straight to the source.”

Brown believes his resume qualifies him to cover coaching all of defensive backfield positions.

“If you look at my career and where I’ve been, I’ve coached the entire secondary at multiple stops at the Power 5 level,” Brown said.

Brown has both positions during stops at Army, Colorado and Louisville before coming to Morgantown.

“Me going back and coaching the entire secondary is probably a little bit more in my comfort zone,” Brown said. “It’s going well right now and I like how it flows.”

It is a bit more complicated than it sounds, for the positions of cornerback and safety require different skills and a different mentality, as Brown described when asked.

“At safety you are the quarterback of the defense,” Brown said. “You have to make communication to both sides. You’re telling the outside linebacker, inside linebacker and corner on your side of the field what to do on each call. So you have to have a quarterback mentality.

“At corner, the difference is, you listen for the call and you execute the call.”

That, of course, is pre-snap responsibilities. Once the ball is snapped, different techniques are required.

“The hardest part of playing cornerback is you have to play the ball more with your back to the basket, to use a basketball analogy at this time of year. We’re in the Final Four and we always say ‘He has to play with his back to the basket,’” Brown said

“Well, when you play corner, the ball is being thrown behind you a lot. That’s the hard part. It looks easy when you write about it but I guarantee you it ain’t easy. At safety, you play the ball more in front of you. You play more from the top down.”

Corners key off the receiver as he runs down the field, safeties play the ball in the passing game.

“In the running game at safety, you have to do a lot more ‘fits’ in the box, almost like a linebacker,” Brown said, changing to another phase of the game. “At corner, your ‘fit’ is really wide and it has to go through a lot of layers to get to you. At safety, you’re right there and you have to know your run ‘fit’ and your pass ‘fit’ … and oh, by the way, you got to tell everyone else what to do.”

Think of it as safety being a predator position, attacking the running game head on while the corners are more in a contain position with more open field to cover and have more time to react.

Playing safety you have to process far more mentally than at corner, which is more of athletic and reaction position.

“That’s where young guys really struggle because of the volume of things you have to know,” Brown said. “I tell them if you have knowledge you’ll have confidence, which will allow you to play fast. If you are playing slow, it’s kind of paralysis by analysis, especially at safety.

“A young player can play faster at corner just because of the mental part of it.”

It’s a lot for Brown to take on, but he believes if he approaches it right and takes advantage of the resources he has it will be an improvement.

“What it takes is some pre-planning,” he said. “I do a good job of utilizing my (graduate assistants) and student assistants really well. Those guys have been with us now for two years so they know exactly what I want and what I expect. It’s been pretty smooth and I’m excited about how we’re operating moving forward.”

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