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Aaron Donald Impressing Coaches During OTAs

Posted Jun 18, 2014

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald compares his rookie experience to being a college freshman.

For Aaron Donald, there was no question that his first weeks in St. Louis would be a significant transition. Known as the most dominant defensive tackle in the NCAA, Donald acknowledged the adjustment to his position group in the NFL has been drastic.

“It’s like being a freshman all over again,” Donald said. “You’re the young guy in the room, and you’re just trying to catch up with the playbook. There’s just a lot more you need to know here. I’m just trying to be a student of the game, learn the game, learn what the guy next to me is doing.”

Donald has often sought out the guidance of fellow defensive tackles Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford in his quest to speed his learning curve. For Brockers and Langford, Donald’s struggle to conquer an NFL playbook for the first time is a familiar one.

“It’s good to be able to have guys next to me who have done this for years,” Donald said. “That’s exactly what they told me. There’s a lot more to learn, a lot more plays, a lot more things that you need to know than there are in college.”

At 6’1” and 285 pounds, Donald represents a distinctly differing style from both Brockers and Langford. Built for quickness more than sheer brawn, Donald amassed 28.5 tackles for loss during his final season at Pittsburgh, leading all of college football. While he admittedly has much yet to learn, his talent has shone through to those around him over the past two weeks.

For at least one Rams coach, Donald certainly seems to be catching on fast enough. That would be offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who has already seen Donald leave an impression with his disruptive style of play in 11 on 11 drills during OTAs.

“Aaron Donald has my vote for rookie of the year already,” Schottenheimer said.

Donald, of course, is concerned with creating similar headaches for the rest of the offensive coordinators in the NFC West.

Picked 13th overall in May, Donald entered the draft widely considered the second-best defensive line option behind first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, as well as the top option at defensive tackle. In his first meeting with the St. Louis media following his draft selection, Donald spoke highly of defensive line coach Mike Waufle, whom he has worked diligently with over the past two weeks.

Replicating the pace he created at Pittsburgh during the early going may be a stretch for Donald, who joins a defensive line that, along with Brockers and defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn, now boasts four first-round selections. However, that’s just fine for Donald, who has had the luxury of not being rushed into an expanded role. For now, becoming an emerging talent at a position group that is a known quantity throughout the league will suffice.

“I’ve learned from some other guys, learning from (Coach Waufle), I’m just trying to improve myself and my role. Just being able to add some depth to this line, I just want to be a piece of the puzzle.”