BEAVER FALLS — Four-star defensive lineman Donovan Jeter, younger brother of Pitt basketball forward Sheldon Jeter, has de-committed from Notre Dame and re-opened his recruitment, Jeter said in an exclusive interview at Beaver Falls High School Tuesday.
Jeter said that he’s still considering Notre Dame, but after having some second thoughts about his commitment, he’s going to take his time and make sure he explores all of his options. Jeter had committed to Notre Dame right after taking a visit there, something he later came to regret.
“I was on like an emotional high there,” Jeter recalled of his late September visit to South Bend. “They had crowd going crazy, the planes flying over. When you get there, they treat you like kings. I just felt a lot of love. On the plane ride home, I told my mom and dad I wanted to commit and they were all for it. My dad was the one that said, ‘I think you need to see some more colleges.’”
Since Jeter committed, Notre Dame has gone 1-3 with losses to Duke, North Carolina State and Stanford. Head coach Brian Kelly has fired his defensive coordinator and some have even called for his dismissal. Jeter said that a phone call with Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison put things into perspective for him.
“[Mattison] was like I still want you real bad,” Jeter recalled. “I look and Michigan is undefeated and Notre Dame is 2-5. Nothing against Notre Dame. They’ve had some tough losses. … I have to find a place that’s home and a place that fits me. Notre Dame fits me. But I want to explore my options. I went on one visit and committed. That’s like marrying the first girl you kissed. You have to explore. That’s what I’m doing.”
Jeter said that Pitt, Penn State, Tennessee and Alabama have been in touch with him throughout the process and Oklahoma called with an offer “two minutes after he de-committed.” This time, Jeter is in no hurry to make his decision.
“I’m probably going to take some more [visits]. I’m probably going to take one or two. I’m not sure yet,” he said. “I don’t want to commit during the playoffs. That would be selfish. So, I’ll wait until after the season. Hopefully, sometime in December. … I’m not worried about it. My main focus right now is just to win a championship. I have plenty of time to decide. I don’t leave until January.”
Jeter said he definitely isn’t ready to narrow his choices down. He said that he’s frequently changed his mind about what he thought he was going to do throughout the process, both before he committed and since.
“With me, it changes every week,” he said. “One time, Pitt was my top school. One time, Michigan was my top school. Obviously, Notre Dame was top school. One time Penn State was my top school. One time Ohio State was my top school. I’m not even going to post on Twitter what my top schools are because I know it’ll change in a heartbeat.”
When Jeter spoke with Pittsburgh Sports Now over the summer, he said he was looking for a place that was like home. He’s added something to what’s important to him over that time, though. He wants a winner.
“I don’t want to play for a mediocre school,” he said. “I don’t want to play for a team that goes like 7-6. I want to go to a school that plays in the big bowl games or plays in the College Football Playoff. I don’t want to go to an average school because I don’t think I’m an average player. I want to make big time plays on a big time stage.”
One thing that be doesn’t mind is where he plays. Jeter started out getting recruited as a defensive tackle, but after losing 50 pounds this offseason, most of the teams that are talking to him see him as a defensive end.
“It doesn’t make a difference to me, honestly,” he said. “As long as I’m on the field, I feel like I can be a game changer.”
Jeter said he’s gotten some extreme reactions through social media about his recruitment, commitment to Notre Dame and now his de-commitment. He said that it’s hard to put it to the side some times, but he tries to use it as motivation.
“To me, I think I need to prove myself,” he said. “Every week, there’s some guy on Twitter or somebody that doesn’t think I’m good enough or thinks I’m overrated. That Aliquippa game — thank God I have some thick skin because I took some heat. I didn’t play that good. [People said] the game was on me. We played Central Valley last week and just destroyed it, and I got a lot of love, but there’s still some guy on Twitter saying, ‘I would have blown you off the ball.’ For me, I put the pressure on myself to always perform. I just have to.”
Jeter is graduating after this semester in order to enroll early in college and he has just two classes left to finish. He won’t be able to play basketball this winter because of his early enrollment. With his college decision pushed to December, he has the next month and a half to focus on his game and getting Beaver Falls to a championship. Right now, that’s the only plan.