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Asti: CJ Donaldson Seems Poised for Big Season as Star of WVU Offense



WVU Football RB CJ Donaldson

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Life is much different for CJ Donaldson now than it was at this time one year ago. Back then, Donaldson was being told he had to try a new position right as he was trying to learn a new place to live and how to be a college student.

Fast forward to present day and Donaldson is local celebrity in Morgantown and many expect him to establish himself as one of the best running backs in the country this season. After coming out of nowhere against Pitt to start last season, the hype around Donaldson is now something people, including those who don’t think much of the Mountaineers as a team, are excited to watch in the fall.

Overall, he put up 526 yards for an average of six yards per touch and scored eight touchdowns when on the field in 2022. His statistics don’t even speak enough to how electrifying he was from the moment the Backyard Brawl kicked off in Pittsburgh until he suffered a concussion in Austin and had his season cut short with another injury against TCU, an injury that led to surgery.

Even though Donaldson is firmly placed on the depth chart as one of WVU’s running backs, he still doesn’t fully embrace a label of any position. “I wouldn’t just classify me as a running back. I’m an athlete. I can get out there anywhere,” he said while speaking to the media after practice on Friday.

WVU HC Neal Brown Knows CJ Donaldson Has ‘Big Time Ability’

But of course, having a season under his belt will surely serve him when he becomes even more part of the West Virginia offense in 2023. WVU has a stacked group of running backs, but Donaldson should still emerge as the top guy. He’s also more suited for that type of role now. His head coach brought up Donaldson not being in good enough shape to handle more carries throughout last season, which then became evident with injuries he dealt with throughout the year.

Donaldson admitted Neal Brown was very honest with him and straight up told his now sophomore running back that he had to get in better shape if he had hopes of being more of a focal point and a true star. The 6-foot-1, 238-pound Miami, Florida native answered the call and has since learned to eat better and work on his body the right way.

“I embraced that. I like that,” Donaldson said when asked about Brown confronting him with concerns about his body health.

“I thought CJ Donaldson got some in the live work, I think he had some 4 or 5 carries. If he will continue to work on his body and stay healthy, he’s got big time ability. He really does,” said Brown about Donaldson in the spring as he worked to recover from surgery.


“He’s an extremely smart football player and he showed that today. He had a couple really explosive runs and showed good patience. He’s a load to tackle,” Brown continued gushing over the potential of Donaldson.

There’s also now a sense of pressure on Donaldson to show he’s more than just a freshman sensation. It’s now up to him to demonstrate the complainer player he can be and take his game to another level as a sophomore. This is especially the case with belief WVU’s offensive line could be the team’s driving force to surprising people.

Asti: CJ Donaldson Taking a Jump is Key for West Virginia’s Offense in 2023

It’s now about making sure his 240-pound frame is made of more muscle and less body fat. Donaldson can’t simple rely on his athletic ability to dominate over opponents on its own. This is especially true because the West Virginia offense is now shifting to a more obvious running focus. With Chad Scott’s promotion to offensive coordinator and the fact a dual threat quarterback will be leading the Mountaineers, WVU will go as far as their ground attack takes them.

WVU football QB Garrett Greene and RB CJ Donaldson.

WVSN photo/Kelsie LeRose

There’s also likelihood that the West Virginia offense will throw multiple running backs out there at the same time. Donaldson is all but assured opportunities, but if he’s ready for them and if he can he handle them will determine the success of the offense as a whole.

Unlike last year, Donaldson won’t be able to surprise anyone anymore. If anyone can stop him is another topic, but being in better shape and continuing to learn his craft will allow him to stay on the field and take his game to another level.

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