WVU’s Reese Donahue Making Most Of Final Run

WVU’s Reese Donahue Making Most Of Final Run

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia senior defensive end Reese Donahue from Cabell-Midland is not going to be on anyone’s All-American list.

Not unless you get there for effort.

Or improvement.

Or intelligence.

Or for kneeling at midfield and offering a post-game marriage proposal.

If so, then he gets my vote.

Heisman, Shmeisman … Reese Donahue is all class and all of the sudden, as he comes in the final games of his college career he is stepping forward and playing the best football of his career.

Who says so?

His coaches say so and so does Dante Stills, the highly touted sophomore who shares the position with him.

“I went back and watched Reese last year,” head coach Neal Brown said on Monday. “I watched him this year. He’s playing the best stretch of his career, no doubt.”

West Virginia defensive lineman Reese Donahue (46) sacks Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts (1)
West Virginia defensive lineman Reese Donahue (46) sacks Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts (1)

Through most of his career he was always a go to guy, more off the field than even on it. If you wanted, as a reporter, an intelligent quote, an unique observation or simply a friendly conversation, he was the man to talk to.

Normally, you didn’t go to him because he made a big play or made an impact on the game, nor did you approach him because he had a negative impact.

He was a 9-to-5er, a guy with lunch pail who went to work, did his job unspectacularly but unfailingly and stayed out of the limelight.

But recently, there’s been a change and it has a lot to do with his approach and maybe even more to do with the new WVU defense that gives defensive linemen more of chance to make big plays.

“The schematics are different [from the Tony Gibson defense of the past],” Brown said. “I’m not talking right or wrong, last year they wanted him to hold his gap so the second and third line of defense could make a lot of plays.”

This year the defensive line attacks the offense.

“We move our D-line a lot more,” Brown continued. “We’re looking for a more penetrating style of defensive lineman, letting those guys go more one-on-one.”

The defensive philosophy is only part of it.

“The scheme has helped, but he’s played really hard,” Brown continued. “He does what he is coached to do. Is he the most talented player we have? No. But he plays hard and good things happen when you are doing what you are supposed to do and are playing really hard.”

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You can see on the stat sheet how much progress Donahue has made.

He has eight tackles, eight assists and three sacks in seven games this year, while last year he had but 24 tackles in 12 games. Of his 5.5 career sacks, three have come in the last five games.And he has done it against Texas, Iowa State and Oklahoma, the three toughest opponents to date.

“He’s been phenomenal,” said Dante Stills. “He’s playing a lot faster. He’s smart about the game, one of the smartest kids I’ve been around. He’ll point out things I don’t even see.”

And it’s come when needed most, for Stills has struggled through those three games with just a pair of assisted tackles.

Vic Koenning, the defensive coordinator, believes defensive line Jordan Lesley deserves some credit or Donahue’s transformation.

“I think Coach Lesley has been coaching the mess out of him,” he said. “Sometimes players respond to different ways of coaching and I think Coach Lesley has been really challenging him to get better.

When someone is constantly challenging you to get better you eventually — I think the word is acquiesce. I think he eventually just said ‘All right, I’m going to do what you want me to do’ and right there is when he started getting better.”

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