Donald wins ACC Defensive Player of the Year

Written by Sam Werner on .

All season, Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald wreaked havoc in the opposing backfield. Wednesday, he was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Donald led all Division I-A players with 26.5 tackles for loss this season, to go along with 10 sacks. He was named to the first-team all-ACC team Monday and figures to be a leading candidate for most All-American squads as well.

"I love the fact that he's earning it with what he's doing on the field," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said earlier this season.

Against Georgia Tech, Donald had 11 tackles (all solo), including six tackles for loss, one sack and two forced fumbles.

Three weeks later against Syracuse, in a win that clinched bowl eligibility for Pitt, he had nine tackles (eight solo), 3.5 TFLs, two quarterback hurries and a blocked extra point.

Chryst said one of Donald's best qualities is that his best plays often come in moments where Pitt needs someone to step up the most.

"I think that's the mark of a great one," Chryst said after the Syracuse game. "Your eyes go to him, he sees it and he gives you the nod, and more often than not he comes through."

Donald remains a finalist for four major individual defensive awards: the Bednarik Award (best defensive player), the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player), the Outland Trophy (best offensive or defensive lineman) and the Rotary Lombardi Award (best defensive lineman or linebacker).

He'll travel all over the country next week to the various awards ceremonies, ending with the ESPN College Football Award Show in Orlando on Dec. 12.

The Penn Hills native has also gotten some buzz as a dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate over the past few weeks. He almost certainly won't win the award, or even earn a trip to New York as a finalist, but could garner some votes. ESPN's recent straw poll of 16 experts had Donald finishing ninth, with one third-place and two fifth-place votes.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was named the league's Offensive Player of the Year and overall Player of the Year. Here's a full voting breakdown...

Player of the Year
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State: 47 votes
Andre Williams, RB, Boston College: 13
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: 4
Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson: 1

Offensive Player of the Year
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State: 44 votes
Andre Williams, RB, Boston College: 19
Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson: 2

Defensive Player of the Year
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: 44 votes
Nikita Whitlock, DT, Wake Forest: 10
Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State: 8
Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB, Boston College: 2
Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State: 1


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