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Irish A-to-Z: Jonathan Bonner

May 21, 2014, 1:17 AM EDT

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As the Irish look for a pass rush, one candidate might be coming to campus next month. St. Louis’ Jonathan Bonner, the city’s defensive player of the year, could be an immediate answer to one of Brian VanGorder’s questions.

At 6-foot-3, 245-pounds, Bonner might have been a question mark in Bob Diaco’s system, slotting in as a cat linebacker or as an undersized end. But in VanGorder’s defense, Bonner will be free to rush the passer, an edge player with a single goal: to wreak havoc in the backfield.

Let’s take a closer look at Jon Bonner:


6’3″, 245 lbs.



Bonner’s offer list isn’t elite, but as Notre Dame’s coaches pointed out when recapping the recruiting class, there wasn’t a coaching staff in college football that saw Bonner at their camp and didn’t offer him. That was certainly the case for Notre Dame, who had Bonner at their June summer camp. Bonner dominated every offensive line prospect in town and left with an offer.

It didn’t take long for Bonner to say yes, pledging to safeties coach Bob Elliott just days later, even with Missouri and Michigan State also offering. And Bonner only looks better now in VanGorder’s system than the 3-4, the type of refined edge player that might be able to contribute this season if needed.



It’s looking more and more like the Irish found a late-bloomer in Bonner. A first-team All-Everything prospect in the state of Missouri, Bonner has a coach for a father and brings a passion to the game that’s quickly apparent when you watch his highlight tape.

At defensive end, the door is wide open for playmakers. And with the Irish coaching staff able to work eight hours a week with the roster come June, the staff will know very quickly if Bonner has what it takes to contribute.

Again, enthusiasm comes easy when it comes to incoming freshman. Finding the field is much harder. But Bonner brings a skill-set that’s needed and VanGorder has shown a willingness to embrace sub-packages and finding a way to have players take on complementary roles, something that didn’t necessarily happen with Bob Diaco.



It’s not hard to see that I’m bullish on Bonner’s future. But that’s not to say that projecting a productive career is easy. Bonner isn’t a better prospect than Anthony Rabasa, who has yet to make an impact after being evaluated and recruited by Kelly and his coaching staff. He’s not the type of recruit that Kerry Neal was either, who came into South Bend with sky high expectations and left never tallying more than two sacks in a season.

But there’s reason to believe that Bonner can be a better player than both (though the jury is still technically out on Rabasa). Bonner is a player that seems to embrace the grind, and listening to Bob Elliott talk about Bonner is the type of testimonial that gets you excited about a football player.

At defensive end, there doesn’t seem to be much certainty behind Ishaq Williams and Romeo Okwara. Is Bonner more ready to play than Isaac Rochell or Jacob Matuska. We’ll see.

But after exploding onto the scene in his senior season, Bonner could continue that ascent during summer workouts and work his way into some sub-packages starting this fall.


The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson
Nicky Baratti
Alex Bars
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Justin Brent
Kyle Brindza

*Penalty, 15 yards. Out of alphabetical order. Still first down. 

  1. njnapa - May 21, 2014 at 1:54 AM

    I love Bonner. either he, Hill or Williams will be the designated FR edge rusher this year. I have a feeling it will be Bnner.

  2. dickasman - May 21, 2014 at 1:58 AM

    Yaaaaaaawwwwwwwnnnnnn. Gimme some crab stealers yo!

    • onward2victory - May 21, 2014 at 4:14 PM

      Dick, we already know you have more crabs than you can handle.

  3. yaketyyacc - May 21, 2014 at 5:53 AM

    The Irish defense is shaping up very nicely, and Bonner fits right in with Van Gorder’s defensive philosophy.
    so far, the only weakness seems to be play calling.

  4. domerboyirish - May 21, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    are we still on the letter B! Man, I hate the off season. lets get to some football!

  5. ndoneill - May 21, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    But can he play the drums?

    • mtflsmitty - May 21, 2014 at 3:02 PM

      ► 3:27► 3:27
      Apr 16, 2008 – Uploaded by ledzeppelin
      John Bonham drum solo from “Moby Dick”, live at the Royal Albert Hall … From the official …

  6. nudeman - May 21, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    For no particular reason, except that this is better than reading about Jonathan Bonner

    • dbldmr - May 21, 2014 at 1:16 PM

      Thanks. Best song I’ve heard today…and better than reading just about anything in this football dead season.

  7. ndfenian - May 21, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    The fact that Mizzou and Michigan State both were high on him is a good sign for the Irish because Michigan State always seems to have good defenses, and Mizzou has been putting a lot of D-linemen in the NFL.

    BTW!! How did I miss the news that the Irish Guard is basically being done away with?! I read it on another site. Terrible news…

    • dbldmr - May 21, 2014 at 2:19 PM

      The Irish Guard story was in The Observer a couple of weeks ago. It generated a huge amount of discussion. I’ll reserve judgment until I see how it plays out, but it didn’t look broken (at least to an outsider) so I’m not sure why it had to be fixed.

      • mediocrebob - May 21, 2014 at 3:10 PM

        They aren’t doing away with the Irish Guards. They are making it now all band members. Not quite sure it will have the same image anymore. The guards were a very unique tradition that won’t be the same anymore. This is a change I can’t say I agree with. Too bad.

      • notredameirish1980 - May 21, 2014 at 3:47 PM

        It’s sad that things like this are changing for nebulous reasons.

      • ndfenian - May 21, 2014 at 5:39 PM

        It seems absurd to change a 65 year old proud tradition like that. There seems to be so much mystique with that group, how they worked for military precision in their performance and everything. I remember talking to friends in college (a small Catholic school in Kansas) who had heard about the Irish guard tradition at ND and were impressed by it. The 6’2″ height requirement, what’s wrong with that? They really did have an imposing presence on the football field, and there was something special about how it was a 3-4 year commitment, not just a one-year deal.

        I just want to know what the point of changing it is. So a band director can make an impact?

      • mediocrebob - May 21, 2014 at 9:35 PM

        Agree 100% ndfenian

    • ndoneill - May 21, 2014 at 11:10 PM

      They still have it, they just changed the requirements. You have to be a member of the band first and they removed the height requirements. Apparently there were disciplinary/behavior problems so they decided to make the requirements more stringent.

      • ndfenian - May 22, 2014 at 10:08 AM

        I haven’t read anything about disciplinary problems. Did you read or hear that somewhere?

        • ndoneill - May 24, 2014 at 2:10 AM

          I heard it somewhere. Something about the Irish Guard culture getting too rowdy and wanting to tame it down a bit. For example they were supposedly drunk most games. It’s all stuff I heard second hand so clearly can’t confirm it / could be rumor, so take it with a grain of salt.

  8. ndfenian - May 21, 2014 at 5:47 PM

    With the changes they are making to the guards, it will be more like… “hey look at the bandsmen and women dressed as the former Irish guards. Remember that tradition we used to have”? Am I the only one that predicts that the guards will be gimmicky now? Keith should do a story on this to really open this up.

    • irishdog80 - May 21, 2014 at 6:43 PM

      The buzz is trending towards the new Irish Guard being a bust. That said, my roommate at ND was in the band but would have been a better fit for the Irish Guard…6’3″ and over 200 pounds. I will reserve judgement until I see who is part of the new Irish Guard. My gut says they will be close and get better every year. Maybe my youngest son should learn how to play the bagpipes…it could be part of his resume for getting into ND some day.

      • bernhtp - May 22, 2014 at 2:02 PM

        The current Irish Guard are totally badass as they lead the band. It’s dumb to mess with this successful formula.

        I bet lowering the height requirement is just a pretext for admitting women in a PC type of way. Disappointing.

        6’3″ musicians are needed to play tuba or the bass drum. We should keep the guard badass.

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