Pitt made a few players available to the media yesterday. Aaron Donald, Todd Thomas and Devin Street talked about the upcoming season.
Donald was the obvious headliner. As the various watchlists start getting tossed out, Donald’s name was on the Bednarik (best defensive player). In the various preseason mags, Donald’s name pops up as one of the top DT’s in the ACC.
So in this three-man media mix, Donald will take the role of the quiet leader.
This season, Pitt needs Donald’s ability to set a good example as much as his muscle.
“He’s definitely not a talker,” junior linebacker Todd Thomas said. “He leads by working hard and just doing what you have to do.”
Donald, 22, admits to his “laid-back” nature, but he said he won’t hesitate to evolve into a vocal leader if necessary. Teammates — and opponents — will be wise not to make him mad.
“They ask me questions; I try to give them feedback,” he said of younger Pitt players. “If they are slacking, I’m going to say something about it.
“If I see that somebody needs help or needs me to say something to them, I’m going to be that person to do that.”
The vocal leader who will call out guys that aren’t putting in the effort, will be played by Street.
He started into the role in spring practices, and seems to have embraced it.
Street, who started assuming a leadership role in the spring, notices when others aren’t accountable.
“Guys are on the right track right now,” he said. “We had some guys off the track and not really with it. I would say we are in a totally different state right now.
“No more excuses for just missing just even a light throw, even 15 minutes. If we want to be great, we have to do all the little things, too.
“Being on time for workouts, not even a minute late, because that stuff carries over. When you are not accountable for actions, you can’t be successful.”
As for Todd Thomas, well he is just happy not to be out with an injury and ready to play.
Beaver Falls graduate Todd Thomas said he’s in the best shape of his Pitt football career heading into his redshirt junior season. “My weight is good, I feel good,” he said. “I got faster.” He’s also healthy. After struggling with knee injuries his whole career, he’s now 100 percent. That’s good for Thomas and good for Pitt’s defense, which returns nine starters this season. “We just got to play together and not let anything slide,” Thomas said of the next step for a group that ranked in the top 25 in total defense last year. “Just focus on what we got to do. Just go all out and just play hard.” Thomas, if he could, would start training camp right now. But he’ll have to wait about a month; the Panthers open their camp on Aug. 6. “I’m ready,” he said. “I’d be the happiest person in the world. I’m ready to get this game and play and show everybody what we got this year.”
The one thing that makes Aaron Donald happy, having the same coach for consecutive seasons.
When Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald was asked what it was like to have the same coaching staff in place for two seasons in a row, a giant smile flashed across his face.
“It’s great,” he said. “I can’t explain it, it’s just great.”
Donald didn’t really have to explain it. His smile said it all. With the continuity of a stable staff comes a more accurate idea of what is expected from the coaching staff when players arrive for training camp in August.
Whether the smile is of relief or actually liking the staff. I don’t know, but at least the reality of it makes him happy.