WVU HC Neal Brown Knows CJ Donaldson Has ‘Big Time Ability’
One bright spot from the struggles of WVU’s 2022 season was the emergence of CJ Donaldson. West Virginia head coach Neal Brown now expects Donaldson to take his game to a whole new level in 2023.
Limited throughout the Spring as he recovers from injuries sustained towards the end of last season, Donaldson has still been able to make his presence felt. Brown talked about being impressed by what he’s seen from the sophomore so far after practice on Saturday.
“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 when going over what stood out to him recently about when Donaldson has been out on the field.
“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.
Spot on Depth Chart Won’t Matter
Brown did make it clear that he still views Tony Mathis as the featured back. But no matter what the depth charts says, Donaldson will have opportunities to make a big impact. WVU is fortunate to have a running back room that includes Mathis, Donaldson, Justin Johnson Jr., who has shown flashes of being able to churn yards in his own right, and freshman Jahiem White.
Expect WVU Offense to Incorporate Packages with Both CJ Donaldson, Tony Mathis
It’s also becoming clear that the coaching staff feels Donaldson offers a special dimension no one else does as a supreme athlete who can be a force either on the ground or as a pass catcher. And this was evident during the games he’s already played as a Mountaineer.
Donaldson Showed Glimpse of Greatness Last Season
Donaldson, not Mathis, led the team in rushing through the first four games in 2022. He ran for 526 yards on 87 carries for an average of 6 yards per attempt. Add nine receptions for 27 more yards and WVU fans were able to see what Donaldson is capable of, although just a glimpse.
The hope for West Virginia is to now get a full season out of Donaldson. And unlike last year at this time when what position he would play wasn’t even solidified, Donaldson will have an offseason to grow as a player. While WVU knows they won’t be able to surprise anyone with Donaldson anymore, the feeling is that opposing defense won’t be able to stop him anyway.
The 2023 season could take Donaldson, who will be sporting a new number to symbolize a rebirth as a player, to heights most athletes can only dream of.