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2015 Football Recruiting: DL Review

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Cliff Notes version: We didn't land any instant impact defensive linemen, but we have quality guys with upside who will get a chance to develop.

Not a Michigan highlight.
Not a Michigan highlight.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

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Previously, we gave a review of the 2015 class and our scores for each player, we dove into a little more detail about the offensive backfield, we expounded on the virtues of the big boys on offense, and we reviewed the newest members of the AFROS fraternity. Today, we're looking at the big fellas on the defensive side of the ball. Enjoy!

The transcript of Coach Brian Kelly's press conference on national signing day can be found here.

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Irish Defensive Line Signees
247C Score Player City/State Ht/Wt. Position 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.929 Jerry Tillery Shreveport, LA 6-6/318 DT
.895 Elijah Taylor Cincinnati, OH 6-3/285 DT
.888 Bo Wallace New Orleans, LA 6-4/215 DE
.867 Brandon Tiassum Indianapolis, IN 6-4/296 DT
.866 Micah Dew-Treadway Bolingbrook, IL 6-5/280 DT

Official OFD Recruit Grading Scale:

95-100: Elite impact freshman with All-American potential

90-94: Multi-year starter with All-conference potential

85-89: Eventual starter with chance to play as underclassman

80-84: Raw prospect with decent potential but a couple years away from impact

75-79: Likely a backup

70-74: Reach by the coaching staff

Note: All Height/Weight times as listed on UND.com except for Tillery, whose current weight was mentioned by Brian Kelly in his signing day press conference

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DT Jerry Tillery

Shreveport, LA - Evangel Christian, 6'6"/318

Note: We graded Tillery as an offensive tackle and a defensive tackle. We all thought Tillery projects better as an offensive lineman, and our grades reflect that, but we're listing him with the defense because, well, that's where he is right now. Both sets of grades are included below. The 247 Composite score for him above is also based on him being an offensive tackle.

OFD Average: 86.0 DT / 91.6 OT

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Jerry Tillery out of Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, Louisiana. Here is a young man that early on in the process we looked at as an offensive line prospect, and certainly can play there.

But you know, as we have moved along in the process, and really started to drill down a little bit deeper, and talking to some people in particular, he's been coached by some very good coaches, in particular, Pete Jenkins, the legendary defensive line coach who has had a stellar career in the NFL and college most recently with USC.

He's coached Jerry and because of that, Jerry possesses some skill sets that most defensive tackles don't have, and that is the ability to use his hands. And I think that what we saw when we got a chance to talk to more people about Jerry was a unique ability to take that size of 6 6, he's actually 318 pounds now and use his hands and separate and run, that we could have a dominating defensive lineman.

So we decided to make the move and play him on the defensive line, and we think that we've got a potentially dominating defensive lineman. And he'll get a chance with Jarron Jones out in the spring, he'll get a chance now to step right in there and get a great look this spring.

Brendan: 87 DT / 92 OT

I'm not really sure how the Tillery-to-DT experiment will work out, nor am I sure how exactly he'll have a quicker path to playing time at DT with the same number of current players ahead of him as there would be at OT (Jones, Cage, Hayes, Mokwuah vs. Stanley, McGlinchey, Bars, Nelson). We'll see if the experiment extends beyond the spring. If Tillery does stay at DT, I think he has the potential to be a pretty good player; his technique isn't great, but he's extremely athletic for his size and if he focuses full time on defense, maybe he can clean that up. If he moves back to OT, which I think is clearly his more natural position, I think he can be excellent, one of the top guys in the country. I kind of hope he ends up on the offensive side eventually, although if he doesn't it'll mean he did that well on the defensive side, and that's not a bad problem to have.

Eric: 84 DT / 88 OT

After thinking on it I understand the want/need/desire to move Tillery to defense. There isn’t a ton of film out there on him and the stuff that is out there features him playing at offensive guard a lot. That is to say, he’s not a very polished tackle and from seeing some of his all-star camp footage he needs work on his footwork in pass blocking. Everything about his frame screams offensive tackle which just about every analyst agrees with. Yet, despite being a little too tall Tillery could offer some size at the nose guard position for the Irish in the style of Jarron Jones. However, I don’t think he’s quite the same talent as Jones. Due to the log-jam on the offensive line I understand moving him to defense can get him on the field sooner. Still, I think his potential on defense is a handful of points lower than on offense.

Jamie U: 84 DT / 92 OT

It's as simple as this for me: while I can see Tillery one day being a good player at defensive tackle, I think he can be a great one at offensive line. His feet and length are huge assets and I could see him being a starter at left tackle for the Irish one day. If he sticks at defensive tackle, I hope he proves me wrong, but I think he could make a much greater impact as an offensive lineman at Notre Dame than as a defensive tackle.

Jim Miesle: 85 DT / 93 OT

I have to commend Tillery for spotting the potential to get some early playing time on the defense. He saw the need, discussed it with the staff and will give it a shot in the spring. That being said, he is most likely to end up back on the offensive line where he has All-American size and potential.

ManorMan10: 88 DT / 93 OT

My biggest worry with Tillery is that his development is stunted while figuring out the best place to play him. I'm in full agreement with the group that JT has more potential on the offensive side of the ball, but if he stays on defense for four or five years I think his athleticism can carry him to success there too. In the end my worries are outweighed by Brian Kelly's track record with position changes and Tillery's potential.

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DT Elijah Taylor

Cincinnati, OH - Archbishop Moeller; 6'3"/285

OFD Average: 87.0

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Elijah Taylor out of Moeller High School, an inside player who at times was unblockable. In that very good football in that Cincinnati area, talking to rival coaches, they said that when he was healthy, that he was not blockable. You could not block him up front and we were looking for an inside guy, that he is so physically strong at this time as a senior in high school, we are bringing in a guy that not only is strong physically but his get off is outstanding.

Brendan: 89

This is yet another "potential" grade. Taylor was a very early offer for the Irish and a guy Ohio State wanted as well, so obviously coaches see something in him. The "something" is the ability to dominate - wait for it - when he wants to. Similar to Equanimeous St. Brown, there's no question about Taylor's physical ability, it's just whether he can keep the fire within lit. Brian Kelly and Urban Meyer both thought they could figure out how to light that fire, so I'll go along with them and say Taylor will live up to his potential and eventually start on the interior for the Irish.

Eric: 85

After the snap there’s no doubt for me that Taylor is the best of the three linemen coming in this year. He’s instinctual, gets off blocks really well, and has a nose for the ball. These are prime skills for a defensive lineman. My big issue is that Taylor is very slow off the ball. He’s a split second behind his teammates in burst and reaction time in nearly every snap on film. This is largely an innate skill and bothers me in regards to his potential as a possible 3-tech lineman. In terms of body Taylor could be an effective slicing 3-tech but without an explosive burst he won’t be able to fill that role and instead would be more of a gap eating prospect. I bumped him up just enough to become a starter at some point.

Jamie U: 87

Taylor is one of the great unknowns in this recruiting class. He is a strong player fundamentally at this stage of his development and does a great job of using his hands to disengage and find the football. He's a very good athlete for his size and could be the kind of player that ends up being a very good interior pass rusher as a three technique at the college level. He's a tough player to evaluate though because he played in a passive system in high school that asked him to eat up blocks rather than penetrate up the field. That's much more similar to a Bob Diaco defense than a Brian Van Gorder one in terms of what he asks of his defensive linemen. His physical tools make me believe he can possibly contribute as a true freshman, but we'll have to wait and see how he adjusts to playing in a much different system than the one he played in previously.

Jim Miesle: 86

It wouldn't shock me to see Taylor get in the rotation at some point this fall, but let's hope he gets a redshirt season. I think he will be a great fit for the ND defense on the inside of the defensive line.

ManorMan10: 88

Elijah Taylor has been a little bit of a forgotten man in this class - he committed relatively early, and has been drama free since then. He's a phenomenal athlete for the position, uses his hands well, and like Brendan I'm buying the idea that Van Gorder and company can get the most out his ability.

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DE Bo Wallace

New Orleans, LA - John Curtis; 6'4"/215

OFD Average: 86.4

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Bo Wallace out of John Curtis High School, another team that played for a state championship and our second player out of Louisiana. You know, we were looking for a flat out pass rusher, and we found one in Bo Wallace. He can come off the edge and pass rush. He's going to have to put on some weight right now but we'll get him in here in June.

And Coach Longo and his staff will get to work with him. We'll get him ready. But he can get to the quarterback. He can bend. He can get to the edge and feel like we've got a guy that's going to be able to get off the quarterback in very short order. Love his intensity and the way he comes to play every day.

Brendan: 89

Raw and undersized, but man, he has the potential to be a nightmare pass rusher. He has great speed, active hands, an aggressive streak, and the frame to easily add substantial weight. He'll have to add that weight before he can legitimately take on college offensive tackles, which is okay given the glut of young DE projects the Irish pulled in last year. With Trumbetti, Blankenship, Hill, Bonner, and Williams primed to take a bigger role next year, Wallace will have the opportunity to add muscle and refine his technique during 2015. Long-term, he should be able to fill the speed rusher role that always seems to be vacant at Notre Dame.

Eric: 86

Clearly not the biggest guy but we need more developmental speed rushers and Wallace fits the bill. For his size he holds up well at the point of attack and does a good job shedding blocks. I don’t think initial burst and speed off the line are going to be a problem but like many rushers he’ll have to work on his technique. I hope we can pair him with Jhonny Williams at some point down the road for copious amounts of sacks.

Jamie U: 84

I love Wallace's potential as a pass rusher because of his speed and the natural way he can bend around the edge. He has a long way to go with his technique as though and is not someone who is anywhere close to being more than just a situational player at the college level right now. If Kolin Hill and Jhonny Williams emerge this season to provide some help in generating a pass rush, then Wallace is more than likely going to redshirt. His upside is very high, but he has a long way to go to get there.

Jim Miesle: 88

Wallace has the right frame for DE but needs put in the time to bulk up. Look for him to get in the 250 neighborhood and start to get some reps next fall ('16).

ManorMan10: 85

I love the potential of Wallace, but he's definitely a project from a technique and physical perspective. Around 30 pounds and time with Mike Elston will do Wallace a lot of good, but my one nitpick in this class is an edge rusher who can make an impact early in their career. I think junior year Prince Shembo is good target for what Wallace could become if his potential can be realized.

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DT Brandon Tiassum

Indianapolis, IN - Park Tudor; 6'4"/296

OFD Average: 80.8

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Brandon Tiassum out of Park Tudor. Again, here is a guy that for many, Park Tudor, you think about basketball; and Indianapolis, not many of them have come out of there to play football.

We were really intrigued with Brandon. You know, 6-4, maybe a touch taller, 296 to 300 pounds and really light on his feet. We were just really impressed with his personality, the way he played the game, and how he jumped in every drill that we had. I mean, it didn't matter what drill we were running, he was involved in it.

We loved his want to, his desire and for a big guy at that size, we love the fact that we could develop this guy into being a really, really good football player.

So you know, Brandon showed us all the things that we were looking for when we had him up here in camp and really fell in love with him.

Brendan: 80

The Irish staff offered Tiassum before he ever visited, even though he's an Indiana prospect. That makes you think the staff has a high opinion of his potential, but reviews from the services are mixed and Tiassum was pushed around pretty consistently at the Semper Fi game, which typically features lower-rated recruits than the Under Armour and Army games. Add to that the widespread conjecture that Tiassum could eventually end up on the offensive line, and it's hard to project his future at Notre Dame. There are a lot of bodies ahead of him on both lines, so he'll have plenty of time to reshape his physique over the next couple of years. You never know how guys might develop, but right now he seems like he'll be a depth guy.

Eric: 78

I thought bringing Tiassum aboard 8 months ago was a head scratcher and I still feel that way when looking at his skill-set in a vacuum. He’s got decent power off the line but doesn’t explode into the backfield the way a major conference prospect should against his low level of competition. He looks a little frumpy and likely needs more than a year of re-working his body. I think there’s a decent run-stopping rotation player ready to play down the road.

Jamie U: 82

Tiassum flashes with an explosive first step and that's what makes him an intriguing player. However, he is very inconsistent with his pad level and that's going to be a huge problem as an interior defensive lineman. He needs to spend some time in Notre Dame's strength and conditioning program and re-shape his body and needs to improve his technique as well, but Mike Elston has done a good job with players like Tiassum of developing them into eventual contributors.

Jim Miesle: 84

It would appear that I am a bit more bullish on Tiassum than everyone else. He has one of those traits you can't teach--size. He definitely falls into the project category, but Mike Elston has done a really nice job on the defensive line with similar players.

ManorMan10: 80

Tiassum is probably the most raw recruit in this class, and like many big linemen will need to do some big time conditioning work in his first few years on campus.Between Tiassum and Pete Mokwuah last year the coaching staff is placing what is hopefully some pretty calculated bets that at least one can develop into a bully on the defensive line and force double teams.

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DT Micah Dew-Treadway

Bolingbrook, IL - Bolingbrook; 6'5"/280

OFD Average: 83.2

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Micah Dew Treadway from Bolingbrook, Illinois, defensive lineman that we think you know, what really attracted us early on was his pass rush ability for his size. Even though he projects as somebody that may play inside, he has the ability to pass rush even from an inside position and that's a unique quality for a guy 6 5, 280 pounds. And we really liked his feet and his ability to play upfield. So an athletic, big body player on the inside for us.

Brendan: 86

I'm pretty bullish on Dew-Treadway's long-term future as a 3-tech DT or jumbo DE. He's definitely raw and needs a lot of work on fundamentals, but he has size and athleticism that you just can't teach. And as an early enrollee, he'll get that crucial extra half-year of development that will put him in better position for 2016. I say 2016 because, as bullish as I am, realistically he probably won't be ready to compete for time in 2015. I could definitely see him developing into a Jarron Jones or Isaac Rochell type player, depending on which path his development takes, and being a starter for the Irish down the road. Physically, he has the potential.

Eric: 81

MDT reminds me a little bit of a less talented version of Jay Hayes from last cycle. In comparison to fellow classmate Brandon Tiassum, I like Dew-Treadway’s build and frame a lot more. He’s a big kid but still relatively lean with long arms and plenty of room for good weight. For many of these kids we’re talking in terms of potential and I can see the clay available to create a good football player here. But right now, heading into his freshman year I’m not sure if MDT has the goods to be a future starter. Although, I will say that if he has appropriate weight and strength gains he could be a rotational player fairly early in his career.

Jamie U: 80

MDT is already in school and I think he is going to benefit a lot from it. He needs the extra work on the practice field and in the weight room because he is behind in those areas compared to some of the players he's going to be competing against. I don't see the kind of movement skills where he can be an edge player for Notre Dame and his frame suggests he is going to put on quite a bit more weight. I don't see him playing early in his career, but his development is going to be interesting to monitor over the next few years.

Jim Miesle: 85

MDT will really benefit from being an early entry this spring. I see him as a player along the lines of Kapron Lewis-Moore or Isaac Rochelle. He could play inside or outside.

ManorMan10: 84

Dew-Treadway has some work to do physically, but I was really impressed with his hands and ability to shed blocks. He needs to get off the ball a little quicker to become more disruptive in the future, but he has the length to be successful after a couple of seasons adding strength. I think he's a couple years away from seeing the field, but a player who should be a solid contributor by the time he's an upperclassman.

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