#97 Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt
#97 Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt
HGT: 6’1 WGT: 285
2013: Aaron Donald earned unanimous first-team All-America status, the first Pitt defensive player to be a unanimous selection since legendary defensive end Hugh Green in 1980…Donald was selected the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award, making him one of the most decorated players in Pitt history…also named the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Defensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches and media…selected to play in the prestigious Senior Bowl all-star game…finished as the NCAA statistical champion in tackles for loss, averaging an FBS-best 2.2 per game…Donald is only the sixth Pitt player since 1976 to finish as the national leader in a stat category…he also ranked 13th nationally in sacks (0.85 avg.) and 13th in forced fumbles (tied, 0.31 avg.)…on the season, Donald totaled 59 tackles, 28.5 TFLs, 11 sacks, 16 QB hurries, four forced fumbles and a blocked extra point in 13 games. 2012: First-team All-Big East defensive tackle who compiled 64 total stops, 18.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble…led Big East and ranked 12th nationally in TFLs (1.54 per game)…played in and started 12 contests, missing the Sept. 22 Gardner-Webb game due to injury (right knee). 2011: Named to the FoxSportsNext.com All-America Team (second team)…All-Big East (second team) selection by league coaches…played every down lineman position in the 3-4 scheme…ranked seventh nationally in sacks (tied, 0.85 sacks/game)…ranked second in the Big East in sacks (11 total) and tackles for loss (tied, 16 total)…became only the fifth Pitt player since 1991 to compile 10 or more sacks in a season…played in all 13 games, starting the final five…each of his five starts came at defensive end…totaled 47 tackles, 16 TFLs, 11 sacks, 11 hurries and a forced fumble…had a career game vs. Utah with nine tackles and three sacks. 2010: Played in all 13 games as a reserve defensive tackle…had 11 tackles, three TFLs and two sacks on the year. (via pittsburghpanthers.com)
Explosion/Power/ Strength- Shows very explosive and well timed get-off, usually first DL out of his stance, which puts him in prime position to get up the field and penetrate. Is able to uncoil his hips, display explosive upper body power and use leg drive to jolt OL back with violent initial blow delivery. Shows good overall initial strength and power at the P.O.A.
Athleticism- Demonstrates outstanding quickness and very good lateral agility. Shows fluidity when flipping his hips to get skinny through gaps and is able to square back up without losing control, great body control and balance, rarely do you see him play outside his frame nor do you see him on the ground much… Displays great mobility! Very good overall athleticism.
Physique/Leverage- There is a big difference between being “small” and being short… Aaron Donald may not possesses elite length, but by no means is he small. Donald has very good upper and lower body musculature, at 290lbs, Donald is very lean and proportionate. Donald’s thick and compact built allows him to play with naturally low pad level which in turn allows him to play with great leverage.
Effort- Aaron Donald is a high-motor guy, well-conditioned with great stamina. He will not take plays off when he is in the game, which is impressive considering his lack of overall size!!! Makes plays from tackle to tackle in the run game and shows relentless effort pursuing the QB.
Intangibles- Does a great job of recognizing blocks and sniffing out plays. Always is able to locate the ball. Noticed on film, in obvious passing situations he will start as a tight shaded 3-tech and then shift his alignment wide so that he is able to get to offensive lineman’s edge off the snap. This is what I call, “align for success” takes preparation and film study to know your opponent and know how certain adjustments work within your own scheme, it is a heads-up and crafty intangible that Aaron Donald possesses.
Arm length/Hand usage- Has almost 33-inch (32 5/8-inch) arm length, which is key for an undersized defensive tackle, that lacks overall length. Shows very good hand violence, hand quickness and overall hand placement. His hand usage allows him to leverage and disengage off of blocks. The combination of decent arm length and very active hands, is what not only helps Donald being undersized, but also separates Donald from other DT’s in this draft class that have below average hand usage.
Pass Rush- Is able to generate interior pass-rush, with his explosive get-off and his ability to maintain half-man leverage. Shows effective swim move during pass-rush, which he will set up with an outside tug. As I said above, in obvious passing situations he will align wide so that he is able to get to OL’s edge off the snap and he effectively shows the ability to dip, rip and wipe to get up field.
Areas for Improvement:
Size/Physical Make-up- Donald entered college around 255lbs and has really put on good weight to play at 290lbs. As I said above seems to be proportionate but still is very undersized in that he lacks the overall length, and frame to add bulk. Aaron Donald can not improve his overall length, and you have got to wonder, if his frame is maxed out with amount of lean muscle mass he can add, how long will he hold up vs elite NFL competition. If his frame is not maxed out, how much mass can he add on without losing a step or losing effectiveness in the long run.
Maintaing at P.O.A- Despite showing good initial explosion and strength at the point of attack, there are times when Donald simply struggles to maintain his gap when run is coming right at him, Bigger/Stronger OLinemen with good length, are able to re-anchor and break Donald’s stalemate pushing him off the point. Really struggles with holding up vs technically sound double teams if he does not beat it with his initial quickness.
Aaron Donald is an undersized, high-motor, high-effort player that was highly productive during his time at Pitt. Donald possesses very good overall athleticism, explosion and above average pass rush ability, that has allowed him to be very disruptive. Donald will need to continue to use his natural gifts and constantly work towards perfecting his technique to be an effective player in the NFL. As I see it, Donald best fits a “jet front”( 1-gap, 4-3 scheme, that emphasizes up the field penetration).