Opportunity motivating DE Jonathan Bonner as he enrolls at Notre Dame

South Bend Tribune

Jonathan Bonner owes his grandma.

Last June, he had decided that he wasn’t going to make the trip to South Bend for a summer football camp at Notre Dame. The possibility of him landing an offer from the Irish seemed slim.

He couldn’t back out though. His grandma already had signed him up.

“I didn’t want to let her down, so I went ahead and went to the camp,” Bonner said. “That was the outcome.”

The outcome, of course, was a surprising offer from Notre Dame’s coaching staff. He quickly pledged a commitment to the Irish and signed his letter-of-intent in February.

Now, a little less than a year later, Bonner will be one of the 23 scholarship freshmen enrolling in summer classes this week.

“It’s pretty amazing how it all happened,” Bonner said.

Bonner and 20 other freshmen will join early-enrolled wide receiver Justin Brent and defensive end Andrew Trumbetti to complete the 2014 recruiting class’ journey to Notre Dame. The class, known as #GoldenArmy14 in the world of social media, will come together as one unit for the first time.

“The most exciting part is getting to meet all my teammates, spend more time with them and become closer over the summer,” Bonner said.

The 6-foot-4, 253-pound recruit spent his offseason preparing to play defensive end. He was initially recruited to play outside linebacker in former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s 3-4 scheme, but his position has switched to defensive end in new coordinator Brian VanGorder’s base 4-3 defense.

It’s really not much of a switch for Bonner. He played most of his senior season as a 4-3 defensive end for Parkway Central in Chesterfield, Mo. In that spot, he recorded 70 tackles and 17 sacks for the Class 5 state runner-up.

“My offseason training consisted of the workout that (Notre Dame strength and conditioning) coach (Paul) Longo sent to me, and I’ve also been working at a local football training place, Elite Football Academy,” Bonner said. “I’ve been able to go against some good competition there.”

Most notably, Bonner said, he worked some pass rush drills against Andrew Nuss, a St. Louis area product, who will return to Northern Illinois as a senior this fall having started the last 28 games at center for the Huskies. He gained confidence competing with the veteran offensive lineman.

“I was able to do pretty well against him,” Bonner said.

Playing time at both defensive end positions appears to be up for grabs this fall with little settled behind projected starters Ishaq Williams and Romeo Okwara. A collection of freshmen — Grant Blankenship, Jhonny Williams, Jay Hayes, Kolin Hill, Trumbetti and Bonner — could all compete for early playing time before the situation settles. That opportunity appeals to Bonner, who has used it as motivation since signing day.

“I think about it all the time,” Bonner said. “If I come in and do what I need to do, I could end up playing my first year.”

Notre Dame’s Jonathan Bonner will be one of 23 scholarship freshmen enrolling in summer classes this week. (Photo provided)