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Irish A-to-Z: Jerry Tillery

Jerry Tillery spring

Tom Loy, 247 Sports

Few freshmen in recent memory have earned as much advanced buzz as defensive tackle Jerry Tillery. The early-enrollee wowed during spring football, benefitting greatly from downtime taken by the starting duo of Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones. Even as Notre Dame’s staff has worked to restock the front four depth chart, Tillery quickly moved to the front of the line, an anomaly for a first year player, especially one that should’ve been in high school during his first 15 practices.

But Tillery’s not your average freshman. At nearly six-foot-seven and already over 300-well-sculpted pounds, he’s got the body of an upperclassman and the skill set of a guy playing football on Sundays. As a student, Tillery already ventured to South Africa on a study-abroad program and started a yoga group in his dorm.

With great expectations on his shoulders, let’s take a look at Notre Dame’s treasured freshman.

6'6.5", 305 lbs.
Freshman, No. 99, DL


A U.S. Army All-American, Tillery was a blue-chip left tackle prospect, who profiled as a Top 100-150 player depending on the service. Even though he committed to Notre Dame very early in the process (a full summer ahead of time), Tillery was heavily courted by LSU and Les Miles, and took his recruiting visits, checking out Texas A&M, LSU... and Dartmouth.

Tillery stuck with Notre Dame and enrolled early, a recruiting battle that never came to be.


Not often does Brian Kelly rave about a freshman. And his comments this spring praising Tillery and talking about his singular talent and knowledge base had Irish fans thinking they have the next great defensive lineman on campus.

That’s a far cry from those who thought Notre Dame’s staff was merely entertaining their prized recruit by letting him try things along the defensive line before shifting back to offensive tackle. Tillery essentially spent spring working with the No. 1 defense, winning just as many battles as he lost, a rarity for a first-year competitor and early enrollee.

At this point, sky high probably doesn’t cover Tillery’s potential. And while I’m fully aware that his stock might be artificially high right now, let’s just say it: Irish fans should expect to get three seasons out of Tillery before the NFL Watch begins.


At this point, I expect Tillery to play from day one, and to be the first defensive tackle on the field after Day and Jones. From there, who knows? What’s a baseline productivity for a first-year player who isn’t an edge pass rusher? Especially considering Stephon Tuitt had a mostly anonymous freshman season and Tillery is a different beast than Aaron Lynch, Notre Dame’s last freshman phenom. (That’s a very good thing, it turns out.)

The head on Tillery’s shoulders is perhaps the biggest asset the freshman has. And that’s saying quite a bit when you’re already built like Albert Haynesworth.

It’s hard not to go over the top when discussing Tillery, especially when we haven’t had an on-field reminder that he’s a true freshman. But I’m setting the expectations for Tillery high—call it 6.0 TFLs—knowing that he’s playing behind an established duo and that number should earn him freshman All-American honors.

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL
Jay Hayes, DL
Mike Heuerman, TE
Kolin Hill, DE
Tristen Hoge, C
Corey Holmes, WR
Chase Hounshell, TE
Torii Hunter, Jr. WR
Alizé Jones, TE
Jarron Jones, DL
DeShone Kizer, QB
Tyler Luatua, TE
Cole Luke, CB
Nick Martin, C
Greer Martini, LB
Jacob Matuska, DL
Mike McGlinchey, OT
Colin McGovern, OL
Peter Mokwuah, DL
John Montelus, OL
Nyles Morgan, LB
Sam Mustipher, OL
Quenton Nelson, OL
Tyler Newsome, P
Romeo Okwara, DE
James Onwualu, LB
C.J. Prosise, WR/RB
Doug Randolph, LB/DE
Max Redfield, S
Corey Robinson, WR
Trevor Ruhland, OL
CJ Sanders, WR
Joe Schmidt, LB
Avery Sebastian, S
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, LB
Durham Smythe, TE
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
Ronnie Stanley, LT
Elijah Taylor, DL
Brandon Tiassum, DL