Despite an impressive scholarship list from schools like Michigan, Michigan State, Boston College and Virginia, the Ohio tackle chose Iowa because it felt like home. It didn't bother him that Ohio State failed to offer him a ride.
At the Army Bowl in San Antonio last month, Donnal switched to guard without a fuss. He played a backup role, but when his team scored it's only two touchdowns, he was in the game blocking.
Donnal is scheduled to sign with the Hawkeyes on Wednesday, when that period begins. Iowa will be getting a good one.
I had a chance to watch Donnal for a week in San Antonio, and other than adding some strength, he boasted the tools needed to succeed on the next level. He uses his hands well, shows good footwork and is quick for a person of his size (6-7, 285).
I caught up with the impressive young man at the Army Bowl and here's a transcript of our conversation:
Q: What was it about Iowa for you?
A: At first, the relationship with the coaches got me really close with Iowa. We built an outstanding relationship. I just felt so comfortable with all of them that I could talk to them about anything. They felt like family to me. And then getting out there on all the visits, it just really clicked for me. It felt like home. It's an outstanding program, great for linemen.
Q: Did the program's reputation for building linemen play into it a lot for you?
A: Oh, definitely. You might as well go to the place that's fit for linemen if that's what you do. It's great.
Q: Ohio State didn't offer you. Did that bother you at all?
A: Not really. I still took plenty of visits to Ohio State. Coming from Ohio, you have to. It's a rule. (laughs) I visited there plenty. The whole big city atmosphere, that kind of threw me off. I'm not a guy from the big city myself. I wasn't too sure about that. And then with Iowa, that really felt so much like home. It felt right. I just knew it was the place.
Q: What have the Iowa coaches told you about this true freshman year? What are they looking for from you?
A: We haven't spoke on the topic much.
Q: What are your goals going in?
A: Going in, I think everyone would like to play. If the opportunity presents itself, yes, I would like to play. If not, that's fine because it's just more time to get bigger and stronger and fit into the program.
Q: What are some of your strengths and what are some areas you need to work on going to the next level?
A: My strengths are my athleticism, my footwork. Being a three-sport athlete, playing basketball my whole life, that's really helped me in my game. I know some big guys out there are huge and can move some people, but once they get to the next level the D-Ends are rushing quick off the sides and the corners. They can't keep up with them because they don't have the footwork, the athleticism. That's really one of my biggest attributes that really helps me. Then again, I still need to get bigger. I have the athleticism. I juts need to get bigger.
Q: What do you know about Coach (Chris) Doyle and are you excited to work with him?
A: Yeah, I've visited the weight room and got a chance to talk to him plenty of times. He's a really neat guy. He's a high-energy guy that really gets you motivated and ready to work. I'm excited to work with him.
Q: Are you a tackle or a guard? Do you feel comfortable at both spots?
A: Really, until the (Army Bowl), I played tackle my entire life. I played guard (in San Antonio). I feel pretty comfortable there. I'll play wherever they need me.
A: I'm a little bit disappointed that I'm not going to get to work with them a little bit because they're great people to get to learn from. But then again, that also opens up spots for me for the future.
Q: Did you get to watch the Orange Bowl?
A: I did. It was great. It gets you pumped up to watch the team and know you're going to be there and playing with those guys, seeing them win and having a great season.
Q: How would you define or classify the Iowa program from what you know and what you've learned?
A: Iowa's not really flashy, they just get the job done. They're really modest people. Sometimes, we might not get the greatest talent, but we really use our talent and get the most out of everything. People come out way better after being at Iowa Coach Ferentz and his whole coaching staff really knows how to use the talent well.
Q: What is your relationship like with Phil Parker, your lead recruiter?
A: I like Coach Parker. He was there from the beginning. Iowa was my second scholarship offer (after Stanford). He's been there since the beginning. We have a great relationship. He's been by my house. He's been to my grandma's house. He's been everywhere with me. He's an awesome guy. I really enjoy him.