The Pitt Panthers are making the move to the ACC in 2013 and have their work cut out for them as they try and make their place in the new conference. Their biggest challenge may be dealing with the high-paced offenses of their new conference foes, many of which hope to turn up the tempo and run opposing defenses off the field. For Pitt to hold strong, they will need an anchor to their defense, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald is ready to step up for the Panthers in 2013.
Last season, Donald was a force on the interior of the line for Pitt, finishing third on the team with 64 tackles. He made 18.5 of those behind the line of scrimmage, including 5.5 sacks. Even when he wasn’t bring the quarterback down for a sack, however, he was applying pressure, adding 11 quarterback hurries, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. He acted as a one-man wrecking crew during his junior year and has the stage set for him to break out as a major star during his senior season.
His potential hasn’t gone unnoticed as he was named as a preseason first-team All-ACC selection by Phil Steele and was the only Pitt player to be named to the first-team, offense or defense. Donald was recognized alongside proven ACC stars like Jeremiah Attaochu of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Timmy Jernigan of the Florida State Seminoles and Kareem Martin of the North Carolina Tar Heels as the best defensive linemen the conference has to offer heading into the fall, and Pitt will need him to prove that he belongs once the games begin.
For Pitt to make some noise in their new conference next season, they must be sound defensively. The success of their defense hinges on their anchor in the middle at defensive tackles, so how far can Aaron Donald take the Panthers?