The question that all Pitt fans — and even some Notre Dame fans — are asking is, how did Notre Dame land 4-star defensive tackle Donovan Jeter?
I realize that in the end, Notre Dame is still Notre Dame and they do have one of the most beautiful campuses in the entire country and a rich football tradition. However, a week ago, there’s not a person that would’ve predicted that Jeter would pass up Pat Narduzzi and Pitt. No one.
No coach or program recruited Jeter longer and harder than Pitt. The Beaver Falls native always spoke highly about his admiration for Narduzzi, who was personally recruiting him. The talented defensive tackle was a frequent visitor to Pitt’s practices and spent many weekends in Oakland staying with his brother Sheldon.
However, when it came time to decide, Jeter selected a program that wasn’t even in his original “Top 5.”
So, what went wrong for Pitt?
I had a chance to talk with Notre Dame recruiting expert Tom Loy (@TomLoy247) from 247 Sports about how Notre Dame pulled this off.
“Six months ago, if you would have told me Jeter was going to be in Notre Dame’s class, I would have laughed,” said Loy. “To be honest, if you would have told me that three months ago, I wouldn’t have bought it. However, over the past few weeks, my confidence in Notre Dame landing Jeter started to pick up. 24 hours ahead of his decision, I was confident he was going to be Irish.”
So, how did that happen?
“In my opinion, it was a combination of three things: 1)Mike Elston’s recruiting efforts, 2) the Irish commits from western Pennsylvania staying on him, and 3) the need for him to play quickly in South Bend,” said Loy.
“Elston, in addition to defensive line coach Keith Gilmore, was relentless in the pursuit of Jeter. He made him a top priority and pushed hard to land him. There was honesty and sincerity in Notre Dame’s pitch. No promises were made about early playing time or a starting job once he arrives on campus. The staff made it clear that Jeter was a wanted man and believes that he could step in and contribute early if he works hard and earns it. That honest approach seemed to hit home with Jeter, who was on campus this weekend and witness multiple hard-working freshmen defensive linemen getting early playing time for Notre Dame,” said Loy.
As many Pitt fans painfully know by now, the Fighting Irish have hit the jackpot in Western Pennsylvania this past year landing blue-chip talent like Central Catholic linebacker David Adams, Pine-Richland quarterback Phil Jurkovec and others. Loy tells me those guys turned into recruiters for the Notre Dame coaching staff.
“Notre Dame has done tremendously well in Pennsylvania, both in 2017 and 2018, particularly in the western half of the state. The staff previously landed commitments from linebacker David Adams, defensive tackle Kurt Hinish, offensive tackle Joshua Lugg, quarterback Phil Jurkovec, and offensive lineman Robert Hainsey, linebacker Matthew Bauer who currently resides in Florida at IMG Academy.”
“The staff hasn’t missed yet on 2017 recruits from the WPIAL holding an offer from Notre Dame. The bond and camaraderie of this group is only making it easier for Notre Dame to recruit this area. All of these guys contacted Jeter and tried to get him on board. They all made him comfortable with this decision and did their part to pitch the Fighting Irish to him. If you ask Jeter, he’d probably tell you that he’s closer to this group of guys than the committed prospects from Pitt or Penn State,” said Loy.
And believe it or not, despite all the top-end talent at Notre Dame, they do have a need for defensive lineman and that was big.
“There is a need for a player of Jeter’s caliber. The staff wanted to land another pass rusher in this class and Jeter fits that mold. He is a big-bodied kid with athleticism and quickness. As mentioned before, no promises of playing time were made, but the staff made it clear that he’s a top guy they want and one they expect to contribute immediately. The staff has high expectations for this young man and Jeter has the mentality and focus to come in ready to compete,” said Loy.
Last I heard, Jeter planned on enrolling at his college choice early, so, it appears as that will take place in January.