Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2016

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

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BY LOU SOMOGYI W hat a difference a year has made for Jerry Tillery. In April 2015 as a fresh- man early enrollee, the prized defensive line recruit was the buzz of spring drills. "Far and away the story is Jerry Til- lery," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said less than two weeks into 2015 spring practices of the Shreve- port, La., native who was replacing an injured Jarron Jones at nose guard. "He's just a unique player — one that I can't remember that I've coached … "I don't want to put him in the Hall of Fame, I'm so leery to talk about a freshman, but he's a unique talent." Flash forward one spring later, af- ter Tillery had started in three of the 12 regular-season games he played in before getting suspended in the Fiesta Bowl for a violation of team rules. When Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and line coach Keith Gilmore are asked about the now 6-6½, 315-pound Til- lery, the responses are much less ef- fusive. That's hardly atypical. Freshmen often are boosted up for the slightest positive signs — before being taken down a peg or two once their college football careers commence. "Inconsistent," VanGorder replied the final week of 2016 spring drills when asked about Tillery's adjust- ment from nose guard to the gradu- ated Sheldon Day's three-technique spot. "Just really inconsistent. "Nobody's really established him- self as the starter at the defensive tackle position, so we'll keep it com- petitive and see if we can grow and develop some young players who have some ability. … There are about six names there you can rattle off who are competing for the job. We just have to find out who the best player is going to be." Gilmore noted that Tillery made some positive strides in the final week of spring, but stopped short of declaring him a full-time starter. "Most of the spring I've been bat- tling, and it's not just the learning part," Gilmore said of Tillery. "We all forget sometimes that Jerry is a freshman. The expectation becomes really high and everybody wants him to do everything correct right now. I have to remind myself that he's a freshman, keep coaching him. He'll be where we need him to be when the time comes. "I'm still pushing. He's just start- ing to become a little more mature, as young men do. From one year to the other they're going to get better. He's starting to get it. … Most people are not even talking about sophomores. He's in this position that we've got to have him step up like he's an upper- classman and really become a factor." RISE AND FALL In reality, the lone player along the line who can be declared a full-time starter is senior strongside end Isaac Rochell. At weakside end, juniors Andrew Trumbetti and Jay Hayes will rotate, depending on the opponent, with the 260-pound Trumbetti going against more pass-oriented teams and the

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