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Notre Dame Football 2014 Recruiting – Defensive End Review

Coach Brian Kelly and his staff signed a large class along the defensive line, including five prospects who could end up at defensive end.

Jonathan Daniel


Welcome to the third of our six part, in-depth series on the 2014 Notre Dame football recruiting class. Following signing day, we unveiled the OFD average grades for the newest members of the Fighting Irish family.

This installment will focus on the defensive ends: Grant Blankenship, Jonathan Bonner, Kolin Hill, Andrew Trumbetti and Jhonny Williams.

For reference, here is the previous positional pieces:

Offensive Line

Quarterback, Wide Receiver and Tight End

The transcript from Coach Brian Kelly's press conference on national signing day can be found here.


Irish Defense End - Signees
Score Player State Ht/Wt. Position 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.898 Grant Blakenship The Colony, TX 6-6/252 Defensive End
.860 Jonathan Bonner Chesterfield, MO 6-4/250 Defensive End
.853 Kolin Hill Schertz, TX 6-2/220 Defensive End
.934 Andrew Trumbetti Demarest, NJ 6-5/250 Defensive End
.840 Jhonny Williams Berrien Springs, MI 6-6/237 Defensive End

Official OFD Recruit Grading Scale:

95-100: Elite impact freshman with All-American potential

90-94: Multi-year starter with All-conference potential

85-89: Eventual starter with chance to play as underclassman

80-84: Raw prospect with decent potential but a couple years away from impact

75-79: Likely a backup

70-74: Reach by the coaching staff

Note: All Height/Weight/40 times as listed on


DE Grant Blankenship

(The Colony, TX - The Colony) - 6'5"/235/4.75

OFD Average: 84

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Grant Blankenship, defensive lineman from The Colony in Texas. Here's a young man that has just blossomed in the last couple years, 6'6". I was in his home last week, and he just continues to grow. He's about 265 pounds. We loved him in camp. We had a hard time with anybody blocking him. He was a guy that just stood out right away for us when we saw him in our summer camp working out. Had a great senior year, and again, a guy that continued to just grow. I think he's just starting to hit his potential level, and it's only going to get better and better.

And to get a young man out of Texas, I think Kerry Cooks did a great job incidentally in the state of Texas. We got three players from Texas, all of them offered by the University of Texas. I don't know if that happens very often. But we're very fortunate, and it's a great area for us, the state of Texas, and to have three from Texas starting with Grant is going to be really a solid player for us with great size, somebody that's really going to grow into that position at the defensive line.

Eric: 82

Interesting recruit due to his size. He looks every bit of 6-5 and has a frame to grow into a very large lineman. Not a whole lot jumps out in his film, though. I like his length but his speed, strength, and burst off the line are just okay. Reminds me a little bit of Chase Hounshell coming out of high school. Blankenship should offer some versatility but is another recruit I think needs some time in the program to get bigger, stronger, and understand a more defined role.

alstein: 81

Reasonably athletic from a lineman standpoint, but does not show the strength or explosion through ball carriers like the rest of his cohort. Got work to do, in my opinion.

pburns2010: 85

Blankenship really excites me with his length and athleticism. He does need to put some weight on if he will be playing a 3-4 DE, and I think that may result in a redshirt. It will be interesting to see Blankenship & Trumbetti in camp next to each other.

4pointshooter: 84

Jim Miesle: 90

Blankenship earned the second widest range of grades from our staff. I have him rated the highest, because I think he has a huge upside potential due to his frame. Like everyone else I think it is likely that he takes a redshirt year before competing for playing time in 2015. He has the flexibility to play in either even (strong-side) or odd fronts. There have been some comparisons to Troy Niklas in terms of athleticism and a few rumblings that he could get a look at tight end.


DE Jonathan Bonner

(Chesterfield, MO - Parkway Central) - 6'4"/250/4.80

OFD Average: 85

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Another outstanding player who really caught our eye this summer, Jonathan Bonner out of Chesterfield, Missouri, Parkway Central High School, great program. He was the St. Louis Post Dispatch Defensive Player of the Year. We really project him to be an outside player for us, an edge player, rush player, a guy that gets after the quarterback, and really was impressed with Jonathan, his personality, his character.

Has a bit of a connection here with Notre Dame, as well. When you talk about the right fit to Notre Dame, Jonathan possessed all of the right characteristics, academics, socially, and then as a football player.

When he came up here, again, a lot of these guys we see firsthand, so our evaluations in a lot of these young men, we got a chance to see them. Jonathan really impressed us in all of those areas.

Eric: 81

Good but not great burst off the line. Looks reasonably athletic in the open field. I'm skeptical of his ability to play defensive end at Notre Dame mostly due to his height. He looks closer to 6-2 to me than 6-4 and a lot more built like Prince Shembo but with room to add a lot more weight. Bonner does a lot of little things that I like (uses his hands really well in particular) and it's heartening that he really impressed the staff in person when he camped. I still think he's a project that's going to need some time to develop and might grow into an interior lineman by the time he sees steady minutes.

alstein: 88

One whose rankings I don't get. Hugely productive in high school with strong, stout frame, quite athletic for a lineman. Reminds me of a high school Greg Hardy.

pburns2010: 84

Bonner has the prototype size in my opinion to fit right in at the 3-4 defensive end spot. He will need to add 25-30 lbs, but that is all that is keeping him from the field. I expect a redshirt, and him to crack the two deep in 2015. Actually cracking the starting lineup will take some coaching up.

4pointshooter: 84

Jim Miesle: 87

I really like this group of DEs overall-and Bonner is yet another example of why. He has a lot of flexibility depending on the future of VanGorder's system. He could grow in to a 3-4 DE (similar to Kapron Lewis-Moore), play the rush linebacker spot or play the weak-side DE in even fronts. Bonner is another guy I gave a one of the highest grades to of the group (even though I got trumped by alstein here), thanks in part to the flexibility and also due to the productivity at the prep level. He is the type of player that Irish fans would look at as an upperclassman and wonder why ND didn't recruit him in the past.


DE/OLB Kolin Hill

(Schertz, TX - Samuel Clemens) - 6'2"/220

OFD Average: 87

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Kolin Hill, linebacker out of Schertz, Texas, Samuel Clemens High School just out of San Antonio. Kolin was a young man that we offered when he didn't have a lot of action, but we saw a young man that we thought we could develop into just an outstanding football player. First of all, we loved him as a person. Again, a right fit for Notre Dame, character, high energy, yes, sir, no, sir, had all those things that we really liked. He was engaging. Really impressed our admissions people. He had all the things that we were looking for as well as somebody that we felt we could develop.

After we offered him, of course then he got a million offers after that. Another kid from Texas that was offered by Texas, but he saw the reasons that he chose Notre Dame and fought through that late recruitment. Again, I thought Kerry did a great job of recruiting Kolin and getting him here to Notre Dame.

Here's a guy that really will continue to just develop. He has not even seen his ceiling yet. Really excited about Kolin and what he can do for us at the linebacker position.

Eric: 85

Very good prospect but what I'm concerned about is fit into the Notre Dame system and developing a position out of the gate. Hill looks really physically developed for 6-2, 225 pounds and his film is eerily similar to Prince Shembo. He plays tough, gets off blocks well, and shows pretty good closing speed on ball carriers. Still, 6-2 really isn't ideal for the Cat linebacker spot. So, can Hill play on the inside? Is he athletic enough to possibly stand up as an outside linebacker and play in coverage? I'd really like him as a defensive end if he was at least a couple inches taller. I have a feeling he plays on special teams in 2014 but doesn't find a regular role on defense until his sophomore year.

alstein: 89

Unbelievably under-the-radar prospect; I think I'm even being a little stingy. Undersized, but uses his hands like a pro and chases ball carriers sideline-to-sideline like he's got something to prove.

pburns2010: 86

Hill's highlight reel makes me immediately think of other semi-undersized pass-rushers that have been effective due to their speed and athleticism. I expect Hill to mimic the development of Prince Shembo, as long as he doesn't lose a step while gaining 15-20 lbs.

4pointshooter: 86

Jim Miesle: 87

The thing that really jumped off the film about Hill was his motor. He is relentless in getting after the quarterback or ball carrier and has a phenomenal first few steps. I think he is a better fit as a rush linebacker vs. defensive end, but could play either at the college level. I understand the comparisons to Prince Shembo, but I think Hill is a faster, more athletic version who will learn to drop into coverage or rush the quarterback depending on the play call. The depth chart is a bit loaded in front of him, but I can see him carving out a role as early as 2015.


DE Andrew Trumbetti

(Demarest, NJ - Demarest) - 6'5"/250

OFD Average: 93

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Andrew Trumbetti, also another early enrollee from Demarest, New Jersey, Northern Valley Regional High School. The thing that I would say about Andrew, the thing that really put him over the top for us is when we were watching his film, he was returning kickoffs in high school, and not many times do you see a defensive lineman returning kickoffs. We knew about his athletic ability right away, and certainly we loved the fact that he was a multisport player, was a track athlete, and when we got a chance, when Coach Diaco was here before he moved on to Connecticut, got a chance to see him in track practice and got a chance to see his footwork and his quickness and all those things, and that started the recruiting process for us, and then obviously getting a chance to see him up on campus in our summer camps.

Just to give you that glimpse, a lot of these young men made the commitment financially to pay thei r way to come up here in the summer for us to see them. A lot of these guys made that commitment to come up, to be in the summer camps so we could actually see them and compete, and that makes a huge di fference, too, and that was one thing that Andrew was able to do. We got a chance to see him and really love that he's with us early. Andrew Trumbetti from Demarest, New Jersey.

Eric: 95

Pound for pound perhaps the best overall athlete in the class. You know you're athletic when you're 250 pounds and getting the ball as a running back and wide receiver in high school. An absolute scary combination of size, strength, and speed. Plays under control but with a mean streak. I love that he was so dominant as a run stopper at the prep level. I need to stop because there are too many good things to say about Trumbetti. Since he's here for spring I truly think he has freshman All-American potential and even greater accolades ahead of him. Slightly concerned about where he fits in with the defense as an underclassman but he'll flourish anywhere, I think.

alstein: 93

Legitimate star potential on the defensive line. Played ILB, RB, and even returned a punt for a TD in high school, so his athleticism plus an early enrollment should mean instant playing time.

pburns2010: 89

I'm not as gung-ho on Trumbetti as most here, but I do think he will be a very good player in a year or two. I think he may struggle to find a spot where he fits perfectly, and with BVG potentially changing the scheme, I'm not sure where Trumbetti may end up.

4pointshooter: 96

Jim Miesle: 92

I picked Trumbetti as the most likely to be a household name by midseason, and reading what Eric and alstein have to say, you can understand why. Being an early enrollee will help him in terms of strength, conditioning and adding some extra weight needed for college football. New DC Brian VanGorder will get plenty of opportunities to see him first hand this spring and find a way to utilize his skill-set this fall.


DE/OLB Jhonny Williams

(Berrien Springs, MI - Berrien Springs) - 6'6"/237

OFD Average: 85

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Jhonny Williams out of Benton Harbor, Michigan, and Berrien Springs High School. Another young man that we're excited to have, just so close by. Here's a young man that just started play the game, 6'6", 230 pounds, and who knows what his future is going to be. There's no ceiling on Jhonny Williams's future. He's an engaging young man. He just recognizes that he's got a great opportunity at Notre Dame, and we're excited to provide him that opportunity.

You know, he's one of the top players in the state of Michigan, and I think from our perspective, we've got one of those guys that if you call him a sleeper or whatever you want to call it, he didn't play great competition, but he's going to get an opportunity to play against the very best competition here. But we'll take that any time with his athletic skill set. At his size, his athletic ability, we're really excited about developing Jhonny Williams. He's the kind of guy that you want to have on your team because of his personality, who he is, his story, his family background, and then a guy that you feel like you can develop down the road.

Eric: 87

I love Williams for a couple reasons. First, he's not someone who Notre Dame has typically targeted during the Kelly era. He's got more of a basketball frame right now and is the type of speed rusher that the 3-4 defense really isn't looking for and doesn't utilize all that well. So, I like that they've gone outside their comfort zone. Secondly, his first step is awesome and he's a mean SOB on film. Sure he's athletically superior to his competition but he's wrecking opponents all while being 220 with all his football equipment on and soaking wet. I really don't think you see many kids this skinny so violent and physical in high school. Due to that weight, however, he's probably at least a year away but his potential is enormous. Williams should be a great fit as a 250-pound outside linebacker with a hand in the ground or a speed rushing 4-3 defensive end. I wouldn't even count out him learning behind Jaylon Smith.

alstein: 85

The type of three-star you want, very "SEC"-like. Athleticism through the roof and a prototype frame but needs to hit the weights and learn the tricks of the trade.

pburns2010: 85

Williams is the best pure athlete of any of the defensive line recruits. He has amazing height for a lineman, and great quickness and footwork. His playing time will depend on how well he does the little things that make good linemen into great ones.

4pointshooter: 84

Jim Miesle: 84

Williams is the definition of raw-similar to Romeo Okwara coming out of high school. He needs a year or two to add the weight and hone his skills, but the sky is the limit for him. As Eric points out there are plenty of places he could end up, and it largely depends on the system Notre Dame utilizes moving forward. Defensive line coach Mike Elston (while not dripping in swag) has done an excellent in developing linemen in his time at Notre Dame, and will play a key role in the development of Williams.