Having Packed On Muscle, Donahue Looks To Strengthen Line Play

Rising Junior Figures In Major Role This Fall

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Reese Donahue was playing a bit undersized in last year’s Heart of Dallas Bowl defeat.

What that is remains more a matter of practical application rather than certain definition. As defensive line coach Bruce Tall says, players perform best at a weight that allows them to do what they need to do. In Donahue’s case, to hold up against sizable offensive linemen and fit the run game, the 250 pounds he faced Utah with weren’t quite enough.

Reese Donahue

“I got real sick and I was down a lot of weight for the last game of the year,” said Donahue, a starting end entering his junior season. “I played at about 250 for that last game. Right now I am mid-270s. Last body composition we did it was eight pounds of lean muscle, so that was good. Seeing a lot of guys gain weight and strength. Haven’t seen this much weight moved in the weight room in a long time.

“Coach Tall always says it doesn’t matter what you play at as long as you handle yourself. Realistically for me to handle and do the things I want to do I need to play a little bit heavier. It’s not getting displaced as much out of the gaps. As long as you can keep your same relative speed and quickness, you don’t get moved around as much and it helps as far as run fits.”

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 264 pounds last season, the Ona, W.Va. native had added approximately 10 pounds to that weight. But factoring in the bowl game, Donahue has added nearly 20-25 pounds since late December. He finished with three tackles against Utah, including half a tackle for loss, but the offensive struggles for the Mountaineers more than offset a solid defensive outing in the 30-14 loss.

The lack of crisp tackling and poor angles taken over all three levels of the defense caused coordinator Tony Gibson to hit a rest button of sorts. The focus this spring has been on a return to the basics, which Donahue says can benefit even more veteran players such as himself.

“It’s my third spring and really different from any spring we have had so far,” Donahue said. “Teaching more fundamentals and technique. Take the pads off and learn tackling learn the defense learn structure. Things where when you go out on the field and do it, it is different. It’s nice because everybody wants to butt heads. We are here to play football and we like to hit people. It comes hand-in-hand. But to take the pads off and teach from the ground up is a really good thing for a team.”

Donahue’s play will be among the keys for a front looking to replace Adam Shuler, who chose to skip his final two seasons of eligibility to return to discus throwing. That left a hole at end, and with the absence of starting nose Lamonte McDougle because of offseason shoulder surgery, Tall has been working in a variety of players at multiple positions, shown below in a recent two-deep released by the university.

“It’s pretty impressive because we have some guys stepping up that we didn’t know could play some positions,” said Donahue, who finished with 40 tackles last season. “It’s exciting. We have Darius Stills, who has moved from end to nose guard. He played a little bit of nickel nose last year, but since Lamonte McDougle is out, he’s taking the full position at first-team nose. He’s doing phenomenal. (Senior defensive lineman Brenon) Thrift, he has stepped up. He has really done well. He’s learning the scheme because, obviously, he was a defensive end as well. Ezekiel (Rose) has really stepped up, too. They are all doing phenomenal. I think we’re developing a lot of leadership and camaraderie in the team room.

“It’s definitely a little different. (Tall) wants us to be able to play every position, and, realistically, it’s definitely good to know as a whole what we’re doing because if I just know what I’m supposed to do as an end, there’s a lot of things we do where we stunt and move and slant. If you know what another person is doing, it makes the defense flow better. Even though, realistically, I’m probably never going to be playing a spur, to know what those guys are doing behind me helps me do my job better.

A look at the defensive line’s recently released two-deep.


Position  No.  Name  Ht.  Wt.   Cl.   GP   GS   Hometown

Defensive End

91 Ezekiel Rose 6-2 275 Sr. 13 3 Clarksdale, Miss.
95 Jeffery Pooler Jr. 6-2 272 r-So. 5 0 Dayton, Ohio
75 Sam Cookman 6-2 236 r-Fr. 0 0 Romney, W.Va.

Nose Tackle

56 Darius Stills 6-1 288 So. 9 0 Fairmont, W.Va.
90 Brenon Thrift 6-2 290 r-Sr. 0 0 Monroeville, Pa.
89 Connor Barwis 6-0 275 r-Fr. 0 0 Reading, Pa.
Inj. 49 Lamonte McDougle 5-10 302 So. 13 9 Pompano Beach, Fla.

Defensive End

46 Reese Donahue 6-4 271 Jr. 25 13 Ona, W.Va.
87 Stone Wolfley 6-4 262 r-Jr. 14 0 Morgantown, W.Va.
77 Daniel Buchanan 6-4 300 r-Fr. 0 0 Gilbert, W.Va

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