Saturday, December 21, 2013

Preview! Preview! All-American Aaron Donald

Pitt has one player that stands above all the others....Aaron Donald.  He's an All-American defensive tackle and then some...let's take a look.

Donald with an uncharacteristically gentle hold
on the leg of Bronco Nagurski
Outland Trophy (2013)
Bronko Nagurski Trophy (2013)
Rotary Lombardi Award (2013)
Chuck Bednarik Award (2013)
AP First Team All-American (2013)
ACC Defensive Player of the Year (2013)
First-team All-ACC (2013) Defensive Player of the Year (2013)

Which is pretty good.

In case you were wondering, the Outland is for best interior lineman, the Nagurski and Bednarik are for the best defensive player, and the Lombardi is for the best defensive lineman or linebacker. Seems like a lot of overlap there, but no reason to lose sight of the overall point.  By consensus, he is one of the best defensive players in the game today.

One thing we noted last year with Chris Jones was that you don't often see D-tackles rack up big numbers.  They are kind of trapped in there with all the other big guys and just eating up 2 blocks is considered a victory for the defense as a whole.  That being said, here are the guy's numbers....

10th in the nation in forced fumbles (1st in ACC)
13th in sacks, (4th in ACC)
1st in nation in TFL

Dude has a ridiculous 26.5 TFL.  First place, not close....Shazier is next with 22.5.  That's not the whole story, though.  The next interior lineman only had 18.

Check out that statline from the Georgia Tech game. (From Pitt game notes)

Donald compiled 11 tackles (all solo), six TFLs, two forced fumbles and a sack against the Yellow Jackets. The six TFLs are the most by an FBS player this season.  Perhaps the most impressive stat of the night: Georgia Tech ran 63 offensive plays, nearly 10% of which ended in a TFL by Donald.

And for those of you who salivate over recruiting rankings...he was a three-star on Rivals with BCS offers from Pitt and Rutgers.  He was undersized and considered a mid-major player.

Same thing for Chris Jones, who started for the NE Patriots as a rookie after being cut twice.

He is 6'0", 285.

Curiously, the NFL seems to be taking the same position.  ESPN has him ranked as the 4th best DT entering the draft and the 33rd best player.  Depending on whether guys come out, you could see him be an early second round pick.

And one I would be thrilled for my team to make.  He's an achiever.  For reference, Khalil Mack is projected by ESPN to be an OLB in the NFL and is expected to be a top 10 draft pick.  They rank him as the 5th best player in the draft.

He seems to appreciate where he is, based on this story from the Post-Gazette and this one from CBSSports.

Mr. Donald, sir.  It is an honor to face you.

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