Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2017

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 26 of 63 AUGUST 2017 27 the ball, and maybe he doesn't run the route quite the way a receiver would — but he's going to be very difficult to defend." D r a f t C o u n t d o w n . c o m ' s S c o t t Wright already has Mack behind only potential first-round offensive line- men Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson on the 2018 NFL draft board among Irish players. "He's got first-round type talent," Wright said. To first-year Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long, Mack is the "perfect fit" and "prototype" at his position. "The biggest thing about Alizé is he's taking great pride in his block- ing ability right now, his presence of being an end-line guy, his protection and overall physicality," Long said. "When you think like that, you're going to become a better receiver." Or at least that's the talk for now. FOLLOW YOUR NOSE On the subject of hybrids, Tillery somewhat resembles the more diverse combination of 2013-15 receiver Corey Robinson and 2013-16 nose tackle Jar- ron Jones. Like the 2016-17 student body presi- dent and NCAA postgraduate schol- arship recipient Robinson, Tillery is a multifaceted, Renaissance Man-type who already has been a globetrotter in his young life. Like Jones, many scouts considered Tillery a better offensive line prospect — Jones has been switched to offen- sive tackle in the New York Giants' training camp this summer — but there was just too great a need on the Irish defensive front for ready-to-play figures. Plus that's where Tillery's preference was when he arrived as an early entrant in the spring of 2015. "Far and away the story is Jerry Til- lery," Kelly gushed halfway through the 2015 spring drills about the fresh- man nose tackle who also trained for triathlons. "He's just a unique player … they have a hard time blocking him. "He has a unique ability at a young age to use his hands. He has had in- credible teaching. One of all-time great defensive line coaches, Pete Jenkins, has gotten a chance to coach him. You can see it. "Where we spend the first year and a half trying to get these kids to not drop their heads and be over- extended, [Tillery] can immediately shoot his hands and use his size to his advantage. "I don't want to put him in the Hall of Fame, but he's a unique talent." With Jones sidelined that season because of a knee injury, Tillery tag- teamed as a freshman with sopho- more Daniel Cage and finished with a modest 12 tackles for the 10-3 Irish. Last year that total tripled to 37 while replacing the graduated Shel- don Day at defensive tackle, but there were only three stops for loss and no sacks by the 6-6½, 310-pounder. Tillery has produced decent num- bers and shown notable progress for his youth, but he has not quite been the unique talent Kelly had adver- tised. The Notre Dame head coach even questioned whether too many outside interests for Tillery somewhat inhibited his passion for football (sim- ilar to Jones or even Robinson). Of greater concern were the way each of Tillery's first two seasons ended. As a freshman, he was sus- pended from the Fiesta Bowl for a violation of team rules. Last Novem- ber during the fourth quarter of the 45-27 loss at USC in the season finale, Tillery was caught on camera nudg- ing/kicking the head of a prone and injured Aca'Cedric Ware, and mo- ments later he deliberately stepped on or cleated the foot of laid out of- fensive tackle Zach Banner, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Kelly, Jones and senior captain/ linebacker James Onwualu all could be seen giving stern lectures to Til- lery on the sidelines after the inci- dent, for which he apologized in length on Twitter, and which the two Trojans accepted in response. Per Wright, Tillery "looks the part" of a future pro, but … "It's similar in some ways to Jarron Jones in that it's not based on talent," Wright said. "It's going to be based on intangibles. How much does he want it?" Talk can take X factors only so far. ✦ After poor endings to his first two seasons, Tillery is looking to put together a consistent and strong 2017. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - August 2017