Connect with us

WVU Football

Is It Time for West Virginia to be Concerned About CJ Donaldson?



WVU Football CJ Donaldson

The one player the Mountaineers felt they could rely on this season was CJ Donaldson. While it hasn’t cost WVU a game yet, he’s been anything but reliable.

Winning often masks issues. It can even act as a cover for a struggling player. And West Virginia is riding an improbable four-game win streak and holds a 4-1 record as they enter a bye week. There are two things WVU hopes to accomplish during their week off – get healthy and get Donaldson back on track.

From Neal Brown to offensive coordinator Chad Scott, who labeled Donaldson the best back on the field in a game that included a future NFL Draft pick last month, WVU coaches all said the same thing when evaluating CJ Donaldson’s performance against Texas Tech. They all said he had a bad game and can’t have another one. Well, another win may have overshadowed the fact he absolutely had another bad game.

Just two days removed from another rough game for Donaldson, Brown then responded to a direct question, asking if it’s time to be concerned, by saying, yes and that he needs to be more explosive. Brown pointed out that Donaldson was much more explosive and had an easier time breaking tackles last season.

Donaldson, often referred to as West Virginia’s freak athlete, ran for only 61 yards on 22 carries on Saturday night. That’s a pedestrian average of just 2.8 yards per touch. So he actually was worse against TCU than he was in his bad game the week before.

There was reason to believe the sophomore running back would be even better in 2023 than when he emerged out of nowhere last year. He was healthy, had actual games at the position behind him and was in much better shape. And Donaldson did start off the season churning yards and making defenders miss. He was the beast his team needed in a gritty Backyard Brawl win. But he’s not been the same since that night.

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

So what’s wrong? Is having the success he was becoming accustomed to now more difficult as he’s likely the focus of most opposing defenses? Have defenses started figuring out Donaldson’s tendencies? Is he preparing like a featured back needs to prepare? Is his head fully invested? Brown did say Donaldson needed to be smarter after he was penalized for taking his helmet off to celebrate a touchdown against Pitt.

WVU Coaches Praise CJ Donaldson for Brawl Performance, Emphasize Need to be Smarter

Obviously, some of those questions are pure speculation and might even be unfair to even ask. But back-to-back bad games makes it reasonable to at least wonder what’s happening.

It’s also worth mentioning that Donaldson’s closest friends on the team are Aubrey Burks and Trey Lathan. He is a kid who may have been shaken up by watching his friends carted off the field. That needs said.

Donaldson may show up and show out in Houston. He may silence any of his newfound doubters, just like his team has been doing to its critics as season. No one would really be all that surprised. Donaldson has displayed enough of an athleticism and ability that doesn’t just go away out of nowhere.

West Virginia does have the benefit of a loaded roster of running backs and a quarterback who can get yards on the ground himself, but Donaldson was supposed to be the driving force of the rushing attack. It’s fair to now wonder what’s gone wrong all of a sudden.

Get WVSN in your mailbox!

Enter your email address to subscribe to WVSN and receive notifications of new posts by email.