MORGANTOWN — One quick glance around the position room and WVU defensive end Reese Donahue knew this season was going to be a lot different than his previous two.
Two years ago, the wide-eyed Donahue was a true freshman who broke into the rotation on situational downs. Last year, he was a first-year starter and became a staple on the Mountaineers’ defense, but he was still one of the young guns.
Just three months later, during spring practice, Donahue noticed that he is the old man of the defensive line. At a position in transition — decimated by graduation and transfers — Donahue hopes he can be a foundation to build on.
“This is definitely a chance for me to be a leader and step up because I have been here a few more years than the other guys,” he said. “I can be somebody that the younger guys can rely on when they need to, and it forces me to go harder, because who am I tell someone what to do when I’m not going as hard as I can?”
Adam Shuler II, who played opposite of Donahue at the other defensive end spot, announced he was transferring to pursue a future in track and field. Jalen Harvey and Jaleel Fields moved on from the program, while Jon Lewis and Xavier Pegues used all of their eligibility.
That leaves six defensive linemen on scholarship — Donahue, Darius Stills, Lamonte McDougle, Ezekiel Rose, Stone Wolfley and Jeffery Pooler.
Of those, Donahue is the only one to get game action on the defensive line the last two seasons with the Mountaineers.
Rose, a junior-college transfer who asserted himself toward the end of last season, took Shuler’s starting job at defensive end. Stills moved inside to nose tackle, where McDougle started as a true freshman last year.
McDougle is out for the spring with a shoulder injury, so that leaves five scholarship linemen to play three positions. The lack of depth forced a rotation, and players are doing things they haven’t done before.
“It’s definitely a little different,” Donahue said. Coach Bruce Tall “wants us to be able to play every position. It’s definitely good to know 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.”
Donahue hit the weight room hard since the end of last season, adding eight pounds of muscle to fit a more prototypical frame for a defensive end. He was sick toward the end of the season, lost a lot of weight and played at about 250 pounds for the bowl game, against Utah, when his listed weight was 263 pounds.
Donahue said he’s in the mid-270s now.
“It’s definitely something that I’ve wanted to do but I know the coaches like it, too,” he said. “Coach Tall always said it doesn’t matter what weight you play at as long as you handle yourself, but for me to do the things that I want to do, I need to play a little bit heavier.”