Rick O'Brien: Jake O'Donnell headed to University of Miami

Jake O'Donnell flashes a "U" after signing a national letter of intent to play defensive end for the University of Miami. O'Donnell first became familiar with Miami coach Al Golden when Golden was the coach at Temple.

Since Division I football coaches haven't exactly been beating a path to Central Bucks East's door in recent years, Jake O'Donnell could easily have been tempted to seek more exposure elsewhere.

And Archbishop Wood, a Class AAA powerhouse just down the road in Warminster, was certainly an option.

"People were talking to me about going there," O'Donnell said, "but I'm happy that I stayed put at East. The memories I made here, with my classmates and teammates, are real special to me. This is my home."

O'Donnell's soon-to-be home, after signing a national letter of intent Wednesday morning to play for the University of Miami, is Coral Gables, Fla.

"There were several reasons why I chose Miami, but mainly it was the coaching," said the 6-foot-6, 235-pound defensive end, surrounded by family and friends in C.B. East's library. "I have a lot of faith in Al Golden and his staff."

It was at Temple, during a one-day camp before his junior year, that O'Donnell, who doubled at tight end, first impressed Golden.

A year later, after Golden left North Broad Street to take charge of the Hurricanes, a hand-written note asking O'Donnell to attend Miami's camp arrived in the mail. Another strong showing, especially in one-on-one drills, led to an immediate scholarship offer.

Said O'Donnell's father, John: "[Miami assistant] Art Kehoe told me afterward, 'Your kid came down here and put on a clinic. He showed the Southern boys what the Northern boys can do.' "

John O'Donnell added that his son "always liked to hit," which aided a brief ice hockey career. Before deciding to concentrate on football, the senior played forward for the Warwick Aces and C.B. East's club squad.

His first taste of football came in the seventh grade, while at Holicong Middle School. "My dad told me I should try it, and I was pretty good at it," he said.

Jake O'Donnell, a three-year contributor for the Patriots, has bench-pressed 305 pounds and squatted 475. He has been clocked at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

"He's got a rare combination of size and speed," said C.B. East coach John Donnelly, who coached O'Donnell the last two seasons. "He's got all the physical tools, and he's still growing into his body."

The two-way fixture had 10 scholarship offers. Boston College, West Virginia, Syracuse, and Temple were also in the mix.

Last August, before Golden had coached his first game with the Hurricanes, it was reported that a Miami booster had provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes. There is an ongoing NCAA investigation into the university's compliance practices.

"It was a concern at first," John O'Donnell said, "but the Miami coaches did a great job of managing the situation and keeping the lines of communication open."

Jake O'Donnell said the scandal led to increased phone calls.

"A lot of schools started contacting me," he said, "but I had trust in Coach Golden and believed that he would see the program through it."

Kehoe, a Conshohocken native and the offensive-line coach, has long recruited in this area. "We talk every week," O'Donnell said. "He's a great guy."

And should John and Karen O'Donnell ever need it, they have Miami president Donna Shalala's cell phone number. "She's small in stature, but a wonderful woman," Karen O'Donnell said.

Perisse switches gears. The University at Buffalo's loss of a defensive-line recruit to Penn State turned into a late scholarship offer for West Chester Henderson's Max Perisse.

The 6-4, 250-pound senior, backing out of a commitment to Division I-AA Coastal Carolina, signed with the Bulls on Wednesday. He is projected to be a defensive end and outside linebacker.

Jamgochian to Lehigh. The Haverford School erred in reporting that lineman Grant Jamgochian was committing to Lafayette. The 6-3, 250-pounder has committed to Lehigh.


Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019, robrien@phillynews.com, or @ozoneinq on Twitter. Read his blog, "The O'Zone," at www.philly.com/ozone