2017 4-star DL Donovan Jeter commits to Notre Dame following visit

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Donovan Jeter didn’t plan on making a commitment until Halloween, but an official visit to Notre Dame over the weekend changed everything.

The four-star defensive line recruit called the Irish coaching staff on Monday morning to give them his pledge. Then Jeter shared the news on Twitter.

“This was not an easy decision but I’m doing what’s best for me,” Jeter wrote. “With that being said, after many months of going through this process, I’ll be furthering my education and football career at THE UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME.”

Jeter said he knew what he wanted to do when travelling back to Beaver Falls, Pa., on Sunday.

"Football obviously played a big part, but the education and atmosphere — I liked how they had 80,000 people there and a dedicated community,” he said of his decision. “Every building has a significant meaning to it. It's just a beautiful place.

"I was taken aback. It was amazing."

Jeter gives the Irish a 6-foot-5, 260-pound win when they really needed it. While the sky may be falling in the eyes of many Notre Dame fans after a 1-2 start, Jeter said the 36-28 loss to Michigan State didn’t impact him at all.

“They fought hard to get back in that game,” Jeter said. “They had a chance to win it. That didn't really bother me much. Next year or in the next two years, we're going to be a problem for everybody."

Notre Dame has collected 18 verbal commitments in the 2017 class but hadn’t received a new one since July 20. Jeter joins four-star defensive tackle Darnell Ewell, three-star defensive end Jonathon MacCollister and three-star defensive tackle Kurt Hinish on the defensive line in Notre Dame’s class.

Jeter, who played at 285 pounds as a junior, has reshaped his body in the last year. He has also given up his basketball career — he averaged 16.8 points per game for the Class AAA champions in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League — with plans to enroll early. Jeter’s older brother, Sheldon, is a senior forward on Pittsburgh’s basketball team.

“You’re getting a pretty blank canvas, but it’s a great canvas in the fact that he has all the tools to do it,” said Ryan Matsook, head football coach at Beaver Falls. “In the defense that (Notre Dame) plays, his body type fits right in to what they’re looking for. He’s a big kid who can redirect, has athleticism and has shown toughness.

“Overall, he’s been a tireless worker for us as far as making sure that his body is ready to play. He’s really transformed his body in the last three years. From a mental aspect, the kid gets it. He’s mature in that sense. You’re getting a kid who can definitely step right in and hopefully be the kind of player that they recruited.”

Not long ago, it appeared Notre Dame wouldn’t be a major player for Jeter. When he released his top five schools in July, Alabama, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Ohio State and Tennessee made the list. But Jeter eventually made the same decision that many of Notre Dame’s recruiting targets in Western Pennsylvania have made in the last year-plus.

Four Irish commits in the 2017 class — offensive lineman Josh Lugg and Robert Hainsey, linebacker David Adams and Hinish — all hail from Western Pennsylvania. Notre Dame quarterback commit Phil Jurkovec, a 2018 recruit, also lives in the region.

Jeter credited Hinish for keeping Notre Dame on his mind.

“Every time, he brings it up to me,” Jeter said. “'Did you commit yet? Go ahead.’”

Recruiting coordinator Mike Elston and defensive line coach Keith Gilmore led Notre Dame’s push for Jeter from the coaching staff. The phone call they received from Jeter on Monday morning was likely their favorite conversation to date.

“I'm real close with coach Gilmore and coach Elston,” Jeter said. “I talk to them a bunch.”

With Jeter in the fold, both Rivals and 247Sports peg Notre Dame’s 2017 recruiting class as sixth-best in the country behind Ohio State, Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma and Georgia. 247Sports slates Jeter as the No. 8 strongside defensive end in the 2017 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 14 defensive tackle.

CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said Jeter has NFL potential with his athleticism in such a big body.

“He has size. He has speed. He’s aggressive,” Lemming said. “He’s the kind of guy that Notre Dame doesn’t usually get.”

With uncertainty lingering around Notre Dame’s defense, Jeter’s future position is hard to pinpoint. It will likely be determined by the kind of defensive front the Irish utilizes when he’s on the field. Jeter said he’s been told he could play either defensive end or defensive tackle.

“I don’t know if he’s explosive enough to play on the edge and rush the passer,” Matsook said. “I don’t know if he’s stout enough to just sit in a three-technique (between the offensive guard and tackle). Either way, he’s a project in a 4-3. In a 3-4 or a team that plays multiple fronts, he’s the kind of kid that can play as a strongside defensive end on the outside shoulder of the tackle. That’s his strength.”

Jeter doesn’t have a position preference. He just wants to be “on the field making plays.” And he wants to do it at Notre Dame.

Want to thank everyone that helped with the decision.. but here it is pic.twitter.com/yR3VYkEzM8

— 5⃣God (@JeteNificent34) September 19, 2016

@JeteNificent34 congrats man!! #Pipeline#PAtoND

— Phil Jurkovec (@pjurkovec) September 19, 2016

The PA to ND pipeline is getting stronger!!

#IRISHEL17E

— Mike Elston (@CoachMikeElston) September 19, 2016

Welcome to fam bro ✊ #IRISHEL17E#LuckyBoyz☘☘ https://t.co/WJCElGn8mN

— JonathonMacCollister (@bigbird__54) September 19, 2016

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Defensive end recruit Donovan Jeter, a former Irish commit, enters Notre Dame Stadium before the Michigan State game. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)