The Real Steal

Our 11th of 22 (and counting?) "Eye in the Sky" film reviews for Notre Dame's incoming pledges examines three-star prospect Jonathan Bonner and how he could improve head coach Brian Kelly's Irish roster over the next four -- or five seasons.

Ranked 79th among the nation's defensive end prospects by, three-star Irish pledge Jonathan Bonner enters Notre Dame as a potential defensive end for a four-down (4-3) front or outside linebacker in both a 4-3 and 3-4 alignment.

Below is a film review of Bonner with an eye toward how he could help Notre Dame's front seven -- in 2014, 2015, and beyond.

Strengths and areas for development

Uses his hands well at the point and, perhaps not coincidentally, quite well as a pass-catching tight end as well where he showed impressive coordination with the ball in the air…Does a good job maintaining balance when changing direction or reacting to a run outside his gap…Shows good discipline in the scheme of the defense, something many prep stars that can dominate athletically ignore…Closes well, breaks down and shows fundamental tackling skills in space…Long arms (a must at defensive end) and stride allow him to play taller than 6'3" -- can cover ground in a hurry…Good feet in space after the catch as a tight end and facing misdirection as a backside defender...

Moves with the fluidity of outside linebacker from a rush end position -- born to play on the edge of a defensive front…Plays with good leverage at scrimmage…Might be better off as an undersized, ultra-athletic defensive end though then as a linebacker asked to backpedal and cover short zones (He could do the latter, but could be special at the former)…Diagnoses the read-option well and appears to understand what an offense is trying to accomplish (not something easily taught upon entry to the college game)…Film-to-field will be less of an issue for Bonner than many…

Join our Football Forum Discussion Thread on Bonner, here.

Athleticism allows him to recover and make a football play when he's blocked or initially misses…Moves his feet like small forward, especially when coming to balance from an attack position….Faces a similar adjustment to the college game as do most hybrid DE/OLB -- the reality of the situation at 18 and prior to a collegiate strength program is they're "tweeners," not multi-positional threats, yet…Can he hold up at the point of attack as a DE or move well enough to stand up and play in space as an OLB in 2014? His frame should allow for another 15 pounds over three years without lost athleticism...

A promising player and a true sleeper prospect, Bonner's offer list doesn't appear commensurate with his potential...

Notre Dame might have found a hidden gem in this under recruited athlete.

Road blocks to playing time

Added strength as a defensive end and ample tutoring in pass coverage.

Bonner could likely help getting after a quarterback as a 4-3 edge rusher next season but the Irish have a pair of veteran threats in that regard in senior Ishaq Williams and junior Romeo Okwara. Bonner's fellow freshman Grant Blankenship, Kolin Hill, and Jhonathan Williams also possess the skills to potentially help new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's unit as niche players over next year's 12-game slate.

Can they move ahead of senior Anthony Rabasa, another player whose skills could be a good fit for the new scheme? Regardless of their eventual moment of impact, there's exciting talent joining the perimeter (rush ends) in the 2014 class.

Reminiscent of… Former Irish outside linebacker and defensive end, Devon McDonald...

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