Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2017

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

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Page 18 of 63 AUGUST 2017 19 The most experienced returning lineman is junior Jerry Tillery. If the Irish are going to play good enough defense to make a run at the College Football Playoff, the Shreveport, La., native will have to become a more productive player. Tillery has made only five stops behind the line and one sack his first two years, numbers that must im- prove for first-year coordinator Mike Elko's attacking defense. At 6-6½ and 308 pounds, Tillery has the size to thrive inside and the quickness off the line to penetrate effectively. Crucial to his progress is becom- ing more consistent with his effort, and doing a better job of shedding blocks and getting to the football. If he can improve in those areas, his game should take off this fall. A trio of juniors will look to fill out the two-deep up front. Defensive tackle Micah Dew-Treadway has the physical skills to be an effective rota- tion player, but he has not been able to stay healthy or show the necessary motor to be a factor. Brandon Tiassum had a strong fin- ish to the spring, which has put him in position to finally earn playing time on the interior. Elijah Taylor was poised to become the top backup to expected senior starter Jonathan Bonner, but a Lisfranc injury has put his season in jeopardy. If either Dew-Treadway, Tiassum or Taylor can emerge as a legitimate rotation player, it will give the Irish defensive line the bona fide depth it needs to show improvements in defending the run. LINEBACKER DEPTH The linebacking corps was deemed the strongest position group in the 2015 class on National Signing Day. Josh Barajas and Asmar Bilal were ranked as top-100 players by Scout, and Te'von Coney was rated as the nation's No. 118 overall player by Rivals. Up to this point, however, the trio has not had the kind of impact many expected from them when they signed. After failing to crack the rotation his first two seasons, Barajas trans- ferred to Football Championship Sub- The return of tight end Alizé Mack — who missed last season due to an academic suspension — provides the Irish offense with a playmaker for the pass game. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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