Pitt's Donald one of nation's most disruptive defenders
Backed into a corner by tape recorders, cameras and reporters asking a lot of questions, Aaron Donald was out of his element Monday in a Pitt conference room.
He's much better suited to wrestling a 320-pound center into the dirt, even if two opponents decide to rush him at the same time.
“Football is fun,” he said, summing up his life's mantra in three simple words.
But Donald has been known to raise his voice and wear the mantle of leadership when necessary.
“I spoke up last week during the (Georgia Tech) game,” he said proudly. “Nothing major, just making sure my guys are all together.”
And that's what Donald, Pitt's All-American candidate at defensive tackle, has become in his senior season: His team's best chance to stay together, salvage the season and reach a bowl.
“He's a special player,” Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. “We need him to continue to be more special.”
After eight games — and with Notre Dame and ABC-TV coming to Heinz Field on Saturday night — Donald has become a dominant player. He was named ACC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday after recording six tackles for loss against Georgia Tech, the most in the FBS this season.
He leads the nation in TFLs (2.4 per game, a total of 19) and is third in sacks (1.1, nine). He also has eight quarterback hurries. With a total of 27 1⁄2 career sacks, he is college football's active leader.
Chryst has dealt with his share of disruptive defenders, and he said Donald is especially troublesome because he's difficult to avoid.
“The good thing about the way he plays is he is able to affect the play whether you are going to him or away from him,” Chryst said. “That's what stood out to me.”No one will accuse Donald of trying to seize the spotlight.
“He's not giving speeches,” Chryst said. “I don't think that's what inspires him, so he doesn't think that's what he needs to do to inspire others. What better way than to have your actions speak.”
Donald's name has surfaced on several mock NFL drafts, and he may become the first Pitt player picked since 2011. Donald said he doesn't pay attention to such things.
“I still got four more games in college to worry about,” he said.
ESPN college football analyst and talent scout Kevin Weidl said Donald has a future as an interior pass rusher in the NFL.
“I think he's ultimately going to be a reserve, sub-package kind of defensive tackle,” Weidl said. “His fit is going to be in a 4-3 scheme.
“He lacks ideal size on the interior in terms of being able to anchor (6-foot, 285 pounds). His game is predicated on quickness and disruption. With his hand quickness and ability to counter-punch, he is tough to handle.
“Anytime, you can get an interior pass rusher, that's the best pass rush you can get because he is coming into the quarterback's face.”Weidl said Donald reminds him of former Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who was drafted in the third round this year by the Seattle Seahawks (87th overall).
“He will go in the same range where Hill came off the board, actually going a little bit higher because he has been so productive.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- No. 11 Purdue presents tall order for Pitt
- Offense continues to click as Panthers hold off Kent State, 85-76
- Narduzzi: Notre Dame should have to join a conference
- District college notebook: Pair of Pitt wrestlers win titles at Keystone Classic
- Pitt notebook: Boyd undecided about leaving early for NFL
- Artis leads Pitt to lopsided victory over Cornell
- Pitt notebook: Offensive struggles continue
- Miami’s Scott has improved program since replacing Golden
- Pitt’s Dixon monitoring minutes early in season
- Miami (Fla.) gets prepared to take on ‘physical’ Pitt team
- Pitt falls flat in finale loss to Miami