Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 17, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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8 SEPT. 17, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME It Starts Up Front With Jerry Tillery By Lou Somogyi Following the 24-17 victory over Michigan I thought, "Who in the world is Bryan Driskell going to select as the Defensive MVP?" It was such a well-co- ordinated team effort led by Clark Lea that to single out one individual seemed almost unfair. I thought of junior safety Alohi Gilman's two clutch passes broken up and communication on the back end, senior Jerry Tillery's two game-altering sacks, the pass pressure of the four junior ends — led by Khalid Kareem's eight stops (six solo) plus an interception by Julian Okwara — veteran linebackers Te'von Coney and Drue Tranquill providing their usual production … Indeed, Kareem (Driskell's choice) was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week, while Coney and Tillery were on Pro Football Focus' first team for that week's performance in which every play is graded. Now, how about for the entire 2018 season? Who is going to be the center- piece of the defense that has opposing offensive coordinators game-planning around him? The vote here goes to Tillery because defensive excellence begins in the trenches, and the 6-7, 305-pound Shreveport, La., native has the combination of interior power and technique to stone the run but also the explosiveness to register possibly the first double-digit sack total since Stephon Tuitt's 12 in 2012. Each season he has taken his game to another level, and this year he pos- sibly could elevate it to where he has a shot at becoming the first Irish defen- sive lineman taken in the first round since Renaldo Wynn in 1997. Alohi Gilman's Production Is Essential By Bryan Driskell The choice to go with Most Valuable Player is important. Notre Dame's most outstanding player will likely be senior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery. A pair of talented junior defensive ends — Daelin Hayes and Khalid Kareem — and Notre Dame's two outstanding senior inside linebackers — Te'von Co- ney and Drue Tranquill — could challenge for that spot as well, as could junior cornerback Julian Love. When it comes to value, I have a hard time going with anyone but junior safety Alohi Gilman. Notre Dame had strong defensive line play, highly produc- tive linebacker play and stellar cornerback play last season, but porous safety play served to drag down the entire unit late in the season. Gilman was expected to provide a spark at the position this season, and in his first game wearing the blue and gold he did just that. Gilman was aggressive coming down into the box to defend the run, and his tackling was sound. While adding production in the run game is important, what Gilman showed against the pass could be invaluable to the defense this season. Notre Dame's safeties failed to intercept a pass in 2017 and combined for just five passes broken up. Gilman had two passes broken up in the season opener, including a crucial third-down break up in the end zone. If Gilman can continue that play all season he'll provide the defense with a much-needed boost on the back end, and his veteran presence will give the rest of the position valued leadership. Point ✦ Counterpoint: WHO WILL BE THE MVP OF THIS DEFENSE AT THE END OF THE SEASON? TILLERY GILMAN College GameDay has been a staple on ESPN since its inception in 1987, and even more so when the show started getting hosted at a par- ticular game each week during the season. South Bend was the original site for the first on-location show in 1993 with the No. 2 Irish taking down then-No. 1 Florida State 31-24. The show returned Sept. 1 for Notre Dame's 24-17 win over the Michigan Wolverines. Below, GameDay host Rece Davis discusses the rivalry be- tween the two schools and more: BGI: What does the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry mean to you? Davis: "I love the history of the sport. You think back where Michigan first came to Notre Dame and had a little practice ahead of time and taught them the rules. You have everything you want in a great rivalry. You have that context. You have some animosity. You have championship-de- fining moments and Heisman-defining moments. "You also have enough snippiness between the two sides where, 'Well, we won't play for a while.' … It never gets old. It would be better if they played every year, but sometimes these breaks and the reasons for the break add to the aura of the rivalry." BGI: The show going on the road is 25 years old. Is that crazy to even think about? Davis: "It 's a remarkable milestone. I don't think the people who started on the road even recognized what this would become. "… I'm even more grateful it endures and we can come back to one of the great places in all of college football." BGI: Did it make sense to go back to South Bend to begin the year with the 25th anniversary? Davis: "That's just a happy coincidence. Having a game of this magnitude on campus with the historical significance of the two sides not playing in a while, what's at stake and how the game could define their aspira- tions for the season … I think all of those things were a greater factor, but it was a nice coinci- dence we were back on campus where the first show was 25 years ago when they left the studio." BGI: To go from watching the show to hosting, what's that been like? Davis: "By the time it took the road, I was aware of it because I grew up with college football in my DNA. I was already in broadcasting and working professionally. I was working at the time, prior to my time at ESPN, so I didn't always make it appointment viewing because I was always covering a game. "I certainly have respect and admiration for the growth of the show, but by when the show started itself I was late in my college years. By the time it was on the road, I was working in Flint, Mich., already doing television. "It's a little bit different, but I have the best job in television. I recognize that and I wouldn't trade this job at this point in my career for any other. It's fun. It lets me cover and be involved in something I love and care about. I get to do it with an unbelievable group, not just on the set." BGI: Do you prefer to start on a campus rather than a neutral site? Davis: "We'd always rather be on campus because that's what makes college football unique. There are venues, places and sights on campus we can show for five or 10 seconds on a bump coming in or out of break where an alum says I did this there. "Or you get a good look at the Word of Life mural, which some like to call Touchdown Jesus. … Those things you can capture that are unique, that you can't find — even as great as neutral site venues are — you don't get that same feel when you are there." — Corey Bodden Five Questions With … ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY HOST RECE DAVIS Davis took over as host of ESPN's College GameDay in 2015. PHOTO BY COREY BODDEN

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