Way back in August, there was plenty of buzz about defensive linemen around the country who were ready to make history this season. Turns out, we were looking at the wrong defensive lineman. Aaron Donald was a complete unknown when the season started but quickly made his mark for the Pitt Panthers in 2013. His unmatched ability to disrupt offensive backfields leaves no doubt that Donald is the best defensive lineman in the country this season.
Donald was an absolute wrecking ball for Pitt this season, leading the nation in tackles for loss (26.5) and ranking No. 13 in sacks (10.0). 49 percent of Donald’s tackles this season happened behind the line of scrimmage. He lived in offensive backfields all year long and walked away with an abundance of individual awards for his strong efforts. After winning the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award, Donald went on to take home the Outland Trophy, the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Lombardi Award, and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy to prove beyond any doubt who the most dominant defensive player in the country was this season.
His presence on the line helped to stabilize Pitt as they entered the waters of the ACC for the first time. It wasn’t always pretty for the Panthers, whose offense often struggled to put together consistent production, but Pitt was able to scratch out six wins this season to get bowl eligible and will take on the Bowling Green Falcons in the Little Caesars Bowl on December 26. A huge reason for their modest success this season has been Donald wreaking havoc in the trenches.
While we still haven’t had a defensive player win the Heisman Trophy, the dominance of Donald in 2013 is something that will be long remembered. It’s hard to imagine having a better senior season than Donald did this year as he broke out as the best of the best among college football’s defensive stars.