Frazier, Donaldson ruled out for WVU’s bowl game; Fox questionable

MORGANTOWN — Starting center Zach Frazier and leading rusher CJ Donaldson will both be unavailable for West Virginia’s bowl game, head coach Neal Brown announced Sunday.

Frazier was ruled out shortly after he sustained an injury in the Mountaineers’ (8-4, 5-3 Big 12) regular-season finale at Baylor. 

Frazier had surgery soon after that game and Brown revealed Sunday that Donaldson has also undergone a procedure that will have him sidelined for the team’s game against North Carolina (8-4, 4-4) in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl on Dec. 27 (5:30 p.m./ESPN).

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

Donaldson led the Mountaineers with 798 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns this season. He was closely followed by freshman Jahiem White, who finished with 792 yards and will be the starter for the bowl game.

With Justin Johnson Jr. entering the transfer portal, WVU will have three scholarship running backs for the game — White, Jaylen Anderson (129 yards) and true freshman DJ Oliver.

Right guard Brandon Yates will slide inside to start at center in place of Frazier.

“Yates will play center and then (Nick) Malone will continue to play, we’ll have some rotation there,’ Brown said. “It’s really kind of a peak into 2024.”

“He’s gotten a lot of reps playing, obviously not in the game, but practicing and through all of fall camp,” offensive coordinator Chad Scott said of Yates. “He’s been doing a phenomenal job in these bowl practices.”

Ja’Quay Hubbard will start in Yate’s spot at right guard.

The only other injury for WVU is wide receiver Preston Fox, who Brown considers questionable to play.

“I think for Preston Fox is too early,” he said. “We’ll have a better idea when we get down to Charlotte. He’s practiced a little bit, but we’ll know more the week of the game.”

Fox caught 26 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns this year. He is also the team’s primary kickoff and punt returner.

If Fox is unavailable, Brown said cornerback Beanie Bishop and freshman receiver Rodney Gallagher will handle punt returns and Gallagher and Oliver will return kickoffs.

Brown said he currently does not expect any players who are on the roster and healthy to opt out of the game.

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