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'Surging' Donovan Jeter working toward larger role on Michigan defensive line

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Donovan Jeter’s career at Michigan began with the early enrollee missing his freshman year in 2017 after surgery pushed him to the sideline.

The next two seasons, Jeter saw some playing time on the defensive line but in a backup role, playing here and there in 2018 and in 10 games last season.

Michigan defensive lineman Donovan Jeter, shown here in 2018, played in 10 games last season.

Now, as the Wolverines prepare for their season opener Oct. 24 at Minnesota to kick off the abbreviated nine-game season, Jeter has been described by coaches as a player who has readjusted his mindset and goals, and the results have been turning heads in practices.

“Donovan Jeter is playing better than I ever anticipated he could play,” Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown said recently. “He has exceeded all expectations.”

Defensive line coach Shaun Nua didn’t reveal his depth chart while chatting with reporters this week, but it’s clear ends Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye are locked in and Carlo Kemp, a returning starting tackle and captain, is there, too. Brown said Kemp and Jeter have given them solid play inside, suggesting Jeter might also be there.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, during the “Inside Michigan Football” radio show on Monday, described Jeter as “surging” and “doing great.”

“He’s such a natural, good football player,” Harbaugh said.

In July, Harbaugh said on a podcast that Jeter played last season between 290 and 295 pound and is up to 320-325. Jeter is listed at 6-foot-3, 318 pounds in the roster.

“He’s moving faster, quicker, side-to-side and forwards,” Harbaugh said this summer.

Nua described Jeter having an epiphany about this season and what it means for his career.

“Sometimes all of us, we tend to not understand how fragile and how very limited the opportunities are,” Nua said. “He’s probably sick and tired of not breaking through. It’s a combination of all of that. He’s finally realizing, ‘What the heck am I waiting for?’  We’ve had a lot of discussions about it and he’s finally seeing the light.

“Once you realize your opportunities are very limited, either you fight back or you don’t. He’s decided to fight back.”

This is Nua’s second season coaching the defensive line and he has seen the players grow under his watch. He has seen Jeter finally, after putting in time and gaining experience, get it and understand he can play at a high level consistently.

“His mindset is probably the thing that’s changed in everything he does, off the field, on the field, with his teammates,” Nua said.

"Once that happens, everything seems to fall into place. He’s literally taken his mindset to a place where it’s helping him produce at a very, very high level and especially on a consistent basis. He’s in a good place."

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis