It’s no secret the Michigan Wolverines have struggled on the interior of the defensive line in recent years. If you’ve been keeping up to date with our player profile series, you’ve read as much several times already. Yet here we are with another highly sought-after recruit who is now an experienced upperclassman trying to make it all click.
Donovan Jeter has been on the cusp of breaking out for a while now, but it hasn’t happened yet. As he enters his fifth year at Michigan, time is running short. Will he make good on his massive potential?
The story so far
Jeter hails from Beaver Falls High School in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. As a four-star recruit, he was rated 289th overall nationally and 12th at strongside defensive end, a position he has not played at Michigan. Jeter was joined in the 2017 class on the defensive line by Aubrey Solomon, Luiji Vilain, James Hudson, Deron Irving-Bey, Corey Malone-Hatcher and Philip Paea. This haul would be an unmitigated disaster if not for the lowest-rated recruit of the bunch, Kwity Paye, joining the class late in the cycle. With Paea’s transfer to Utah State this offseason, Jeter is the only one left.
Jeter came to Ann Arbor with a decent amount of fanfare. A Notre Dame flip, he enrolled at Michigan having lost roughly 50 pounds from 300 down to 250. The Michigan coaching staff immediately moved him to the interior and bulk back up in weight. Jeter had offers from a multitude of big-name programs such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma. Needless to say, he was a large recruiting win for Jim Harbaugh and company.
After redshirting his freshmen year, Jeter saw spot snaps as a sophomore in 2018 both on the defensive line and on special teams. In 2019, a small amount of offseason praise and hype had fans hopeful Jeter would turn the corner, however, no such thing occurred. He appeared in 10 games but failed to even record a tackle.
By 2020, it was glaringly obvious Michigan needed at least two of the combination of Jeter, Mazi Smith and Chris Hinton to produce at defensive tackle. I will never forget Jeter’s big man touchdown in the season opener at Minnesota. All appeared right in the world until it wasn’t. He spent the 2020 season as a rotational starter and was decent at times. However, the proverbial next step never happened. He tallied 11 tackles, one pass deflection and one defensive touchdown.
Outlook for 2021
The 2021 outlook on the defensive line looks very similar to the 2020 outlook: the interior needs to produce. The talent is there between Jeter, Smith and Hinton, but they’ve got to put it all together. As the oldest of the bunch, the pressure is on Jeter to lead the way. I am optimistic he can put it all together. However, if he doesn’t, he could very easily be usurped by Smith or Hinton.
Yet again, defensive end appears to be a strength for Michigan as Taylor Upshaw and Aidan Hutchinson return. The pressure will be on Jeter to finally turn the corner so the interior can hold up and stuff the run when needed. This hasn’t been done the past few years. At this point, it appears the fate of defensive line coach Shaun Nua is tied to the successes and failures of players like Jeter. He will have a short leash to start the season and is, in my opinion, one of the key players to watch during the non-conference portion of the schedule.