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November 22, 2013

Everyone Likes Aaron

Filed under: Football,Honors,Players — Chas @ 11:38 am

Aaron Donald will almost certainly be a 1st team All-American by the end of the season. His numbers have been eye-popping. Anyone who has watched him face double-teams and occasional triple-teams comes away impressed and amazed by how he still manages to be disruptive.

Donald wreaks havoc on opposing backfields with his remarkable first-step quickness, yet displays enough strength and power to win with physicality. With few offensive linemen capable of dealing with defenders with diverse games, Donald has consistently delivered disruptive plays for the Panthers’ defense. He leads the nation with 22.5 tackles for loss and is tied for sixth in the country with 10 sacks. Those numbers are impressive for a pass rusher, particularly an interior defender rarely given free runs to the quarterback off the edge.

His performance this year has him drawing NFL comparisons to Geno Atkins and there is no longer draftnik talk (for the moment) about how he will fall in the draft because he isn’t the prototypical DT size.

He’s also a finalist for virtually every college football honor in which he is eligible.

Pitt senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald was named one of five finalists Thursday for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is presented annually to college football’s most outstanding defensive player.

Donald will travel to Charlotte on Dec. 9 for the Charlotte Touchdown Club’s banquet where the winner will be revealed. The other finalists are Michigan State linebacker Darqueze Dennard, Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley and Missouri defensive end Michael Sam.

Donald also was named this week as one of six semifinalists for the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman) and is a candidate for the Bednarik Award, Rotary Lombardi Award and the Lott IMPACT Trophy.

The Outland is really impressive since that generally goes to offensive linemen, and he is the only defensive lineman on the list. The only reason he isn’t getting any Heisman love is because Pitt hasn’t had a season that gets you that attention. And for a defensive player, you have to be on a team that is getting noticed to get that kind of run.

With a player like Donald, the constant churn of defensive coordinators did nothing to slow down his growth as a player.

“He’s one of those guys that brings his hard hat and lunch pail every day and puts time in on the field,” Pitt defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield said. “He’s a real cerebral player. He comes in every day for two or three hours a day and watches film, kind of try to pick guys apart.”

Donald figured to be an integral part of the defense heading into this season, but it would have been difficult to predict this level of productivity through 10 games. He leads Division I-A in tackles for losses with 2.3 per game. He also ranks sixth in sacks (1.0 per game) and eighth in forced fumbles (0.4 per game).

Donald credited the increased performance to a tougher summer workout regimen.

“There were weeks in the summer where the only day I had off was on Sunday,” Donald said. “I was always doing something extra. Speed training, just working out, just trying to get myself better. It’s paying off, I guess.”

The working on his own. Extra time learning the game goes back years.

Donald started playing the following year [age 6], following his brother and his father, Archie Sr., on defense. At home, he used to rip up paper and play football, moving the little pieces around like a chess board.

At Penn Hills High, Donald got to learn from the ultimate mentor. Demond Gibson played at Penn Hills and then at Pitt. Gibson saw a player with a quick first step, an overall aggressiveness and a nose for the ball that all came naturally. Gibson worked with Donald on hand placement, pad level and fighting off blocks.





With all the recognition he’s getting, Donald has to be SKYROCKETING up NFL Draft Boards.

Man, it would be great to see him pull in the Outland.

He deserves it.

Comment by PittofDreams 11.22.13 @ 12:01 pm

As for tomorrow and ‘Cuse… predicting a BIG GAME for another Pitt Player.

#40

Comment by PittofDreams 11.22.13 @ 12:04 pm

First time I saw Donald was a playoff game vs Upper St Clair during his senior year of high school. He was blowing up everything they did. He completely took the game over & I was left wondering who he was & where was he going to play in college. I was happy to learn he was coming to Pitt & he has been a beast for years. He might not have all the measurables the NFL covets, but you’d be a fool to think this guy can’t get it done on Sundays. It has been a pleasure to watch AD do his thing at Pitt & I look forward to witnessing it live one more time next Friday.

Comment by Nick 11.22.13 @ 12:09 pm

Mr. Donald is going to be sorely missed next year by the Panther’s defense. Them there are some big shoes to fill.

The thing that always impresses me when I see him play in person, is that he actually kind of looks short and stubby when lined up against some of the offensive linemen that he opposes. Then the snap happens and he blows things up just like that even when double teamed and out weighed by many a pound.

Best play all season for him, when he invaded the Duke backfield so quickly that he caught both the RB & the QB in mid handoff and simply dominated the play by tackling both of them in the backfield for loss. He should have gotten TWO tackles for loss on that play!

He is a Panther that I think we are going to hear a lot from at the next level. Best wishes going forward into the NFL. Proud that you have honored Pitt by playing as a Panther.

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.22.13 @ 12:44 pm

I see a warren sapp type player.. stand up inside lb

Comment by 63 team 11.22.13 @ 1:05 pm

First time I saw Donald was a regular season game vs Fox Chapel, who had Mile Dieffenbach at center. Donald was his usual disruptive force whether he lined up across from Dieffenbach or anywhere else. His quickness was very apparent.

If I recall .. Desmond Gibson was a very promising DL prospect but got badly hurt in the Big 33 game and never was close to being the player many thought.

Comment by wbb 11.22.13 @ 1:34 pm

First time I saw him, Penn Hills vs Gateway, he looked like a bowling ball shot out of a cannon, they also had Mason on the team, Pretty tough up the middle.

Comment by gc 11.22.13 @ 2:48 pm

With the addition of RB Chris James, 247 has our current class at #37, ESPN #41, and Rivals and Scout at #42. We’re between 7th and 9th in the ACC.

Hopefully we’re able to close the deal with our last few targets. Adding Henry, Nicholson, Bookser, Jennings and Dudley-Gordon would yeild a pretty strong class.

Comment by PittHW 11.22.13 @ 3:16 pm

Pitt settles suit with former Coach Haywood for an unspecified amount. Good to get that out of the way.

Comment by alcofan 11.22.13 @ 3:30 pm

I’m amazed it’s taken this long… but definitely good news for the program to put his brief tenure behind us.

Comment by PittHW 11.22.13 @ 3:35 pm

This is a pretty cool new feature (for those of us with too much free time) on 247 that lets you simulate your recuiting class ranking with different players. If we add Henry, Nicholson, Bookser, and Jennings we got up to #21.

link to pitt.247sports.com

Comment by PittHW 11.22.13 @ 4:19 pm

I know its football time….but did you see that Jamie and Slice just landed a huge HOOPS recruit!

link to triblive.com

Comment by LeBats 11.22.13 @ 5:21 pm

Cuse will be sky high tomorrow so We need to stay calm through the first frenzy

Comment by Frank MD 11.22.13 @ 5:44 pm

LeBats, where you been?

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.22.13 @ 6:29 pm

a 6 foot 11 center they say he is raw but you cant teach size all ways like to have a big man or two it is a good thing even if they cant play till they are a JR or SR.

Comment by Frankcan 11.22.13 @ 8:07 pm

What channel is the game on tomorrow in Phila.?

Comment by Schoocher 11.22.13 @ 8:44 pm

Todd Graham continues to reinvent his legacy this time in SI
link to sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Nordenberg & Pederson’s management of Pitt football is certainly helping him.

Comment by TonyinHouston 11.23.13 @ 8:10 am

@Tony, yes there management is helping them.

Let me first say, TG is an ass, it was a classless way to go out, and to more than anyone, including us as fans, the way he left, to his players. Complete garbage.

I have to say though, as time has gone on, I’m wondering if the whole thing wasn’t more about, in his mind…………….

“hey, these people don’t want to win football games here, they don’t want to pay assistants, they want to nickel and dime everything, see ya later”

Doesn’t excuse him leaving the team like that. I get that.

You know, to play devils advocate though, how do we know, that he isn’t being nice right now, by only saying “it wasn’t the right fit”.

Maybe he’d really like to say…….

“are you friggin’ kidding me, no one wants to win there, they fooled me into thinking they wanted to, but after spending 6 months with these guys, you could tell that football was secondary and only an afterthought”.

That would be real sad, if that’s the case.

And frankly, with the results of the football program, and our athletic programs in general, sans basketball, how could anyone thinkg otherwise, that at Pitt, athletics are secondary and an afterthought.

Like I said, not excusing him, not condoning him, but maybe he figured, like a band aid, just tear it off quickly and move on.

Comment by Dan 11.23.13 @ 10:27 am

“their”, sorry, it bugs me.

Comment by Dan 11.23.13 @ 10:28 am

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