Catching up with: UK OC Neal Brown

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River Rat

By Peter W. Zubaty, Sports Editor

With the University of Kentucky’s football coaching change, it afforded Bardstown native Neal Brown an opportunity to come home, so to speak.


Brown — who in recent years guided some of the most productive offenses in the nation while serving as offensive coordinator at Texas Tech and Troy — took over that same position at Kentucky in the winter when new head coach Mark Stoops grabbed the reins.

Since that time, Brown has kept up a busy schedule of recruiting, and has had a hand in helping Kentucky raise its national profile to unprecedented heights. In fact, yahoo.com has Kentucky’s 2014 recruiting class, with 18 players committed, ranked No. 1. Along the way, he has installed the high-octane “Air Raid” system that Kentucky fans will recall from Brown’s playing days at Kentucky under Hal Mumme and offensive guru Tony Franklin.

I caught up with Brown a couple weeks ago at the UK football offices for a half-hour interview to discuss a variety of topics, including recruiting, what it’s like to come home, and how Stoops and his staff are changing the culture of Kentucky football.

Here is the first part of that interview. Check back Sunday for part two.


PZ: What’s the last few months been like?

NB: It’s been non-stop, for sure. It’s been a good crazy. Any time you take a new job, there’s so much that goes into it with the work aspect, getting to know the current players, recruiting for the previous class, recruiting for the next class. But also the personal stuff, too. You’ve got to sell a house; buy a house. Get school straight for kids. All those type of things. It’s been good, but like I said, it’s been crazy too.

PZ: You have moved around a bit throughout the course of your career, but this is a little bit unlike any previous moves, I would guess, coming back to your home state and where you played ball. How has that part been different from other moves?

NB: I don’t have to depend on other people to give me information (about the new area) now. My wife (Brooke) and I are the ones giving information rather than asking people all the time, because we are from Kentucky and Lexington, and we’ve spent a lot of time here. That’s probably the biggest one is we’re the givers rather than the takers. It’s really been good for my two daughters, for them to be able to come back, and it’s been good for my wife, too. … For (my daughters) to get involved and be around their grandparents, that’s a great thing.

PZ: How do you juggle the recruiting and family life?

NB: I’ve not been able to see all the people I want to see or go to all the places I want to go, because the challenges of the job are real and it’s time-demanding. I haven’t done everything I’d like to do, but I’ve been able to spend more time with family and people like that that I normally wouldn’t when we were living 16 or 18 hours away.

PZ: How has the challenge of recruiting for Kentucky been as opposed to recruiting at other places?

NB: Recruiting for Kentucky, I can talk about my own personal situation, where I’ve lived. Just being from here, I can talk about the quality of the people, and how great the university is, and what all Lexington has to offer, and speak with a lot more knowledge and personal experience than some of the other places I’ve been. When it gets down to the actual football parts, we’re not selling kids on anything different here at Kentucky than what we talked about at Texas Tech or Troy, from an offensive standpoint.

PZ: Bringing in the new system, how has that been received by the guys?

NB: They’re excited. They’re excited. The current guys, especially, are excited about the offense (and) what we’ve been able to do in the past at Troy and Texas Tech. Also, we’ve been received very well on the recruiting trail. Recruiting to this point has gone very well. People are excited about the Kentucky football program and what we’re doing on offense.

PZ: Did it surprise you to see that many people at the spring game? (More than 50,000 fans attended UK’ spring game, sixth-most in the country and more than twice as many as any previous spring game.)

NB: I didn’t know what to expect. The night went better than I could have ever expected. We had a great turnout; it was a great night weather-wise. The fans stayed (to the end). That was as positive an experience as I think we could have expected. It’s going to be one of those nights people remember for a long time. We had so many recruits here — it was probably the biggest recruiting day Kentucky football had ever had. The impressions the fans left on those recruits, it’s going to pay dividends way down the line, because a lot of those kids who were there have either committed to us, or we’re currently right in the battle to get them. Those type of recruiting classes are what’s going to build sustainable success.

PZ: You guys are hitting areas that Kentucky football has never made a dent in, or even a ding in, in the past. How is it you’ve been able to make such inroads? Ohio especially comes to mind.

NB: Ohio’s so close to our campus, and with Coach Stoops being from there, his father being a high school coach there, and then Vince Morrow, our tight ends coach, being from there and living most of his life in the state of Ohio, those guys have given us that inroad. And the SEC brand is so strong right now, and not a lot of SEC schools go in there to recruit. So we’re giving kids an opportunity to stay close to home while also playing in the best conference.