On Monday, Sept. 19, 6-foot-6, 260-pound defensive end/three-technique Donovan Jeter from Beaver Falls, Pa., provided the salve that a battered Notre Dame football program needed in the aftermath of a “one-sided eight-point loss” to Michigan State.
Jeter, who had narrowed his choices down to Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Tennessee in July, verbally committed to the Irish – Notre Dame’s 18th of the Class of 2017 – despite the disappointing results on the field Saturday night.
Listed as a four-star prospect, the No. 1 defensive end in Pennsylvania and the on-the-rise No. 29 defensive end in the country isn’t exactly what the Irish need, or at least not all of what they need. They need a true rush end.
But Jeter – from the birthplace of Joe Namath -- is undoubtedly a cornerstone upon which to build, an enforced checkpoint for running backs, and the closest thing to Stephon Tuitt that Notre Dame could ever hope to land.
Considerable credit goes to Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Mike Elston and defensive line coach Keith Gilmore, who convinced Jeter to take an official visit, which he did for the Michigan State game, months after Notre Dame offered a scholarship in February.
Jeter verbally committed to the Irish with scheduled visits to Michigan and Penn State on his original docket.
The brother of 6-foot-8, 230-pound basketball player Sheldon Jeter – the Pittsburgh Panthers’ fourth-leading scorer and third-leading rebounder in 2015-16 – Donovan Jeter is a combination of size, strength, uncommonly great feet for such a big man, and an active, physical defensive end who can slide to a three-technique when the situation dictates.
The light bulb went on last year when Jeter shed 50 pounds to become more mobile and take advantage of his outstanding God-given gifts. He’s gone from a guy uncertain in his three-point stance with an average first step to a locked-and-loaded, quick-off-the-snap, get-up-the-field big end with a fast-running motor.
He runs very well in the open field for such a big man. He has great not good feet in short space. He shows sound fundamentals in his willingness to square up, bend at the knees, and explode into a tackle. Surprisingly, again for such a big man, his change of direction is that of a much smaller athlete. He is light on his feet, yet he is a power player with “heavy hands” in his one-on-one combat at the line of scrimmage.
To further accentuate his athleticism, check out Jeter on offense as a pass-receiving tight end and an edge blocker. He shows good quickness off the line of scrimmage and agility as a pass receiver. As a blocker, he widens his base, lowers his pads and gets underneath the pads of the defensive player.
Those are all applicable skills to the defensive line where he looks like the quintessential big end with the versatility to slide inside, a la Isaac Rochell, in certain situations.
By the time Jeter arrives at Notre Dame, the Irish could very well be a 3-4 team with a new coordinator/approach. Stanford has excelled in a three-man front with the foresight to recognize that landing difference-making defensive ends is difficult at academic institutions. This is the much-needed heir apparent to Rochell, whether the Irish utilize a 4-3 or a 3-4 in the future.
The Irish have a glove-fit prospect base in the Class of 2017 for a three-man front: Jeter at left end, Darnell Ewell at the nose, Kurt Hinish at right end with Jonathon MacCollister as a backup to Jeter. MacCollister also has defensive tackle skills.
Notre Dame clearly has re-established its pipeline to western Pennsylvania, which was the lifeblood of the glory years. Jeter joins Hinish (Pittsburgh, Pa), Hinish’s prep teammate, linebacker David Adams, offensive linemen Robert Hainsey (IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., but originally from Monroeville, Pa.) and Josh Lugg (Wexford, Pa.)
Donovan Jeter truly has difference-making ability for a defensive front badly in need of game-changing size and ability.