NAME: Jerry Tillery
SCHOOL: Notre Dame
POSITION: Interior Defensive Line
JERSEY: No. 99
RECRUITMENT RATING: 4-star
WT: 306 lbs
Hand Technique/Length – Possesses ample length to stun punch and negate a block, although results continue to be inconsistent due to irregular punch timing and placement. Has too many reps trying to scrape while chest to chest with the opposition. Conversely is a terror when able to land the first blow.
Competitive Toughness – Secondary effort is fantastic. May not be the most fleet of foot but will beat teammates to the ball in pure hustle. Has plenty of functional play strength but consistency is a needed key going forward. when playing forward provides ample physical power and toughness.
Two Gap Ability – Has more promise than results, even after a breakout season in 2018. Needs to find more separation stacking blocks to cross the face of blocks and challenge ball carriers. Possesses requisite strength and length to fulfill role but will require notable development.
Gap Penetration Skills – Can get challenged with lateral contact but offers plenty of splash plays if able to work hip to hip out of his stance before being collisioned. Thick, powerful frame creates a lot of forward push, although ability to sit down after bursting through a gap to finish a TFL is modest.
Tackling – Head up challenges are hit or miss but power in tight spaces is terrific. Capable of one arming a ball carrier while in the pile and wrangling down the ball carrier with powerful upper body. Wingspan is a large weapon in influence of the ball carrier pressing into the LOS.
Flexibility – Tightness through the hips and trunk show up in efforts to redirect with quickness or when trying to flatten and mirror the ball carrier. Has leverage issues at the line of scrimmage as well, will allow defenders under his chest and get rocked back against double teams and drive blocks.
Pass Rush Counters – Power rusher who puts blockers on their heels with urgent forward push in rush situations. Will throw and extend hands to collapse a set and transition into a hand pull or a club to produce space to step through space and generate pressure.
First Step Quickness – Gears up effectively to charge hard out of his stance, often times being the first defender to react to the ball in his rushes. Natural acceleration skills appear effective in slant and gap penetration opportunities. Is able to generate an effective burst after uncovering in second effort as well.
Feet/Change Of Direction – Does not slide effectively when looking to scrape off of contact, instead will concede ground. Is not a fluid athlete in open space. Steps run the inside arc effectively and doesn’t bow his rushes with unnecessary width to create steeper angles for himself.
Versatility – Does not showcase a great deal of outside skills but has the upside to develop into a more effective every down defender at the NFL level. Immediate upside stands as an interior power rusher. Could feasibly play in an odd front for a more patient coaching staff.
BEST TRAIT – Length
WORST TRAIT – Flexibility
BEST FILM – Stanford (2018)
WORST FILM – Georgia (2017)
RED FLAGS – Underachiever
Jerry Tillery enjoyed a breakout season in 2018, showing much better conditioning and mobility along the line of scrimmage. If able to sustain that development, Tillery projects as an eventual starter. In the immediate time frame, Tillery projects as a power pass rusher who wins most when allowed to charge hard out of his stance and push up the field in an effort to reset the line of scrimmage.
Get-off/Burst – Not ultra-twitched up, but his first step is still very good and he’s able to sustain his initial burst up the arc. Times up the snap well and is rarely late off the ball. Often asked to slant gaps and cross a lineman’s face directly post-snap, something he was quick enough off the snap to do at a high level. Pops up instead of out at times, can stand to gain more ground off his initial burst.
Leverage – Clearly has the ability to win 1v1 as the low man, playing with great flexibility and low pad level at times, but doesn’t do so consistently. Strong enough to generally hold the point of attack even while riding a bit high out of his stance. Would benefit from more consistent low pad level, but it isn’t detrimental to his game like it is to others.
Hand Usage – Inconsistency is the main concern, but his hands are probably the most improved part of his game. When he fires out with his hands inside to gain early control of blockers he’s fully capable of re-setting the line of scrimmage. Flashes violent hands to trim the edge of his opponent when knifing through gaps. Still perfecting timing and placement, but hand usage is becoming a big strength. Power and length to lock out blockers is special.
Rush Plan/Counters – Two go-to moves, snatch-rip and cross-chop, are both lethal. Can push-pull opponents off his frame or discard them with hump moves. At times his rushes can stall out when he misses with his hands, spin-counter needs some work. Still learning to sync up feet and hands on a down-to-down basis, can lose balance in his rushes. Plan of attack was vastly improved this past season, and has the skill set to keep pointing up.
Mental Processing/Block Recognition – Probably the most notable area that is still developing for him. Will pop out of his stance looking for the ball rather than reading his keys up front. Can get reached or forced to backdoor outside zone runs due to being a step behind. Down blocks and doubles will catch him by surprise at times. Gets his hands up in passing lanes when he knows he won’t get home.
Range – Has the range to make plays away from his gap. Very good speed for a defensive tackle and has the ability to change directions in space. Even dropped into coverage a few times at Notre Dame, operating in a spy role in other games. Only concern is lack of body control can at times leave him recovering his balance when he could be in pursuit.
Bend/Flexibility – Better flexibility in his ankles than in his hips, turning tight corners by getting his feet pointed to the pocket and powering through his opponent’s edge. Good knee bend to leverage the point of attack when his pad level is right.
Tackling – Haven’t seen any missed tackles from him on tape. Wraps up and hauls runners down outside his frame. Has delivered some big shots to quarterbacks, forced three fumbles over past two seasons.
Competitive Toughness – While effort may have been a question in the past, Tillery was lights out this past season, playing every rep hard and consistently attempting to make hustle plays. Physical snap-to-snap, didn’t see his effort fade at all in 2018.
Athleticism/Size – Size, length and trimmed up frame really worked for him this past season. Moved quicker and more fluid while maintaining his raw power.
BEST TRAIT – Pass Rush Ability
WORST TRAIT – Block Recognition/Consistency
RED FLAGS – Suspended for Fiesta Bowl as a freshman due to unspecified violation of team rules. In 2016 went on a Twitter rampage in which he indirectly suggested fired LSU coach Les Miles should replace Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. In 2016 vs USC kicked one Trojan player in the head and stomped on another’s leg. Has other loves and passions outside of football that may concern teams (I don’t care). Work ethic and effort haven’t always been ideal, but huge growth over past two seasons.
The Jerry Tillery that took the field in 2018 was light years beyond the player that suit up for the Irish the seasons prior, showing improvement in key areas like his pass rush plan, hand usage and pad level at the point of attack. He’s not perfect, as there are a couple reps every game that he takes the worst of an exchange in the run game, but he’s certainly not a liability in run defense, and his pass rush ability makes him a potential high-impact interior defensive lineman in the NFL.
Tillery’s best spot will be in the B-gap of an attacking defense, but he may need a little time before he becomes an every down player. He’s developed quickly over the past two years however, and should contribute in a rotation early on, especially on long and late downs.