No. 2 Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt
Previous ranking: No. 10
Making the case for Donald: He should have been a Heisman Trophy finalist -- it was about the only award Donald missed out on. Donald, who became one of the most decorated defenders in school history, was selected the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award. He was literally unblockable for the majority of the season, regardless of scheme.
Donald was called a "one-man wrecking crew" by multiple opposing head coaches, and he 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. He was also named the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year by the league's coaches and media. He finished his career 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.). Last season, Donald totaled 59 tackles, 28.5 TFLs, 11 sacks, 16 QB hurries, four forced fumbles and a blocked extra point in 13 games.
“It is tremendous as a coach when your best player is also your best worker,” said Pitt coach Paul Chryst. “Aaron truly enjoys the film study and preparation part of the game. He plays every day in practice like it’s a game day. Aaron has earned all of the accolades he has received and we are all incredibly proud of him.”