High School Football
  • Class AAA
  • Class AA
  • Class A
LivestreamA Test   Watch |  Listen

Notebook: Donaldson to miss Duke’s Mayo Bowl, WVU to face new-look UNC offense

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As is the case with many bowl games, some of the star power has been lost in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl between West Virginia and North Carolina.

The Mountaineers will take the field at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on December 27 without leading rusher CJ Donaldson. Head coach Neal Brown made the announcement on Sunday.

“That’s really my decision,” Brown said. “He had surgery and I thought that affected him right at the end, especially in the Baylor game. As a head coach, you have to make decisions for the betterment of the entire program but also for the right reasons for each individual. I felt like an offseason was more important than him not being able to play full speed in the bowl game.”

Donaldson played in all 12 games during his sophomore season. He rushed for 798 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Justin Johnson Jr. in the NCAA Transfer Portal, WVU’s running back group in the game will be led by freshman Jahiem White and Jaylen Anderson.

Nov 25, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers running back Jahiem White (22) makes the game winning 29-yard touchdown catch against the Baylor Bears during the second half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

True freshman DJ Oliver could see snaps as well. Oliver has played in four games. The NCAA no longer counts a bowl game against a player towards their redshirt status, keeping Oliver at the four-game limit.

“From where he was when he started to where he is right now, his overall level of confidence and comfort is on a whole different level right now,” said WVU offensive coordinator/running backs coach Chad Scott.

The Mountaineers resumed practices following final exam week. The team will practice on Monday and then take a brief holiday break before picking up preparations in Charlotte.

“Off time is good. We definitely need it,” said WVU quarterback Garrett Greene. “The first practice back, our wide receivers had a little different gear to them. They had fresh legs and they weren’t really running a whole lot. We’re ten days out from the game. Now it gets more critical on attention to detail and getting back to doing what we were successful at.”

It is a consensus

Sixth-year cornerback Beanie Bishop achieved maximum value from one lone season in a Mountaineer uniform. After transferring in from Minnesota, Bishop became WVU’s 13th consensus All-American. He did so by collecting 20 pass breakups and four interceptions.

“It is a big accomplishment, not just for me but for the school,” Bishop said. “Other guys being able to see that you can do it, and you don’t have to do it by being on social media and doing all of those things. You can just put your head down and work.”

“I am really happy for him individually,” Brown said. “His on-field performance has helped us but his work ethic, how he practiced and how he prepared, has really helped our defensive backfield.”

Game 13 of 2023 or Game 1 of 2024?

West Virginia head coach Neal Brown talks with Blaine Stewart in the AAA championship game Photo by William Wotring.

With the transfer portal window still open and another window set to open in the spring, rosters across college football remain very much in flux. However, West Virginia stands to bring back their starting quarterback, their top two running backs, several promising receivers and five of their top seven offensive linemen. The Duke’s Mayo Bowl could be a showcase of what the Mountaineers may have in store for 2024.

“Next year is going to be crazy with the O-Line that we’ve got right now,” said White. “Johnny Williams and Nick [Malone], they are really putting in work for real to get on the field. That’s going to be a ball game.”

Brown welcomes the opportunity to reward younger players with added snaps in the season finale.

“North Carolina has had a few opt-outs. They’ve got some guys in the portal, just like everybody else in the country right now. But I also think in bowl games that it always goes to the team that is the most excited. They are going to play a lot of new guys in the game. Those guys are going to be really excited,” Brown said.

“I think our guys that are going to play more, like a Corey McIntyre, because he is going to play more snaps on the defensive line because he has earned that right and there’s more opportunity there since Mike [Lockhart] left. So I am excited to see him play.”

Nov 25, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) throws a pass against North Carolina State Wolfpack linebacker Caden Fordham during the first half at Carter-Finley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

For the third time this season, WVU will start a game facing an opponent’s backup quarterback. Drake Maye, one of the top projected picks in the NFL Draft, has opted out of playing in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

“I am super-excited that I don’t have to scout them knowing that he is playing,” said WVU co-defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach ShaDon Brown. “He’s a great player. He will probably be the first or second pick overall in the National Football League Draft. He had an unbelievable career at North Carolina.”

Redshirt freshman Connor Harrell is set to start at quarterback for the Tar Heels. He has attempted just six passes in four games this season.

“He’s a big kid that is really fast. The second thing is that he throws the deep ball really well,” Neal Brown said.

UNC’s leading receiver Dez Walker [41 receptions, 699 yards, 7 TD in 8 games] will not play. However, the Mountaineers will face one of the nation’s top running backs in Omarion Hampton. He has rushed for 1,442 yards and 15 touchdowns.

“We have played a bunch of good running backs this year. But he is as good as anyone we have played,” Neal Brown said.

For all the Mayo

In the spirit of tradition, Neal Brown has committed to take part in the postgame mayo dunking ceremony.

“You want to bring a trophy back,” Bishop said. “And we kind of want to see Coach Brown get doused in the mayonnaise.”