Notre Dame football recruiting: Prospect already an Irish fan

Offensive line recruit tries to separate rooting from recruiting.

South Bend Tribune

Jerry Tillery doesn’t have to hide his Notre Dame fandom.

The 2015 offensive lineman prospect has always been a fan of the Catholic university. So when offensive line coach Harry Hiestand extended an offer in early June, Tillery could have tried to commit on the spot.

But the 6-foot-7, 312-pound offensive tackle showed restraint. The Shreveport, La., prospect has decided to separate his rooting interest from his recruiting process.

“I'm giving each school a fair shake because I want to vet every opportunity that I have to make the right decisions,” Tillery said. “I'm just taking everything in and keeping all my options open at this point.”

Still, Tillery has expressed plenty of excitement about his Notre Dame offer. He’ll get a close look at the school while visiting for camp on Friday and Saturday.

“Notre Dame was a big one for me because I've always been a Notre Dame fan and really liked them,” Tillery said. “That's a good opportunity to have.”

The junior-to-be at Evangel Christian has started to sort through a handful of offers. A visit to Notre Dame will be followed by a trip to Stanford in July. Tillery’s offer list already includes the likes of Texas A&M, Arkansas and Ole Miss.

CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said Tillery’s recruitment should continue to receive attention from programs nationally.

“He's technically one of the best around,” Lemming said. “He's got a lot of offers. He'll be one of the more heavily-recruited offensive linemen in the country and he's a great kid. When I talked to him he really seemed to be a Notre Dame-type guy.”

With hopes to visit every school he’s seriously considering, Tillery said he’ll probably make a decision by next summer. An early decision will allow him to identify the school he intends to enroll early at after graduating in December 2014. Learning his criteria for a future school, it is easy to understand why he likes the Irish.

“A great academic reputation as well as a good football program is something that appeals to me,” Tillery said. “Notre Dame has that, which is good.”

Tillery has had conversations with both Hiestand and cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks, who recruits Louisiana. He heard praise from Hiestand and will get a chance to prove himself in person this weekend as well.

“He told me that he likes the things that I've done and he likes the way that I play. My combination of size and athleticism, he said, was something that they look for at Notre Dame,” Tillery said. “I'm a great fit for their program. They really like me and they've always had lots of interest in me from the beginning. That's why they went ahead and gave the scholarship offer.”

In advance of his visit, Tillery took to Twitter and followed almost every single player on Notre Dame’s roster. He’s learning how he would fit in at what he’s called his dream school.

“Notre Dame tends to attract pretty adept people to their campus,” Tillery said. “Notre Dame's probably not for everyone. Not just anyone can succeed at Notre Dame so they have to have pretty special people to come there. That's the kind of thing I want to be a part of. I'm looking forward to this whole process.”

Young talent on campus

A large part of Notre Dame’s biggest recruiting weekend of the year so far are prospects that haven’t started their junior year of high school yet. Friday’s Future Stars Camp and Saturday’s Lineman Challenge and 7-on-7 Passing Camp will give the Irish coaching staff a chance to evaluate potential recruiting targets in the future.

Tillery and Cincinnati linebacker Justin Hilliard will camp with offers already, but the rest of the underclassmen campers will aim to impress the ND staff. national writer Steve Wiltfong said the list of expected campers owns a lot of talent.

“It gets Notre Dame in the game early,” Wiltfong said. It's not about getting those guys to commit at this time. It's about making an impression and getting them to want to come back and continuing to build a solid foundation with them as they go through the process.

Other schools will jump in on them, but they'll always have the positive things that they know and like about Notre Dame.”

Kerry Cooks, who recruits Louisiana for Notre Dame, has helped bring in Shreveport prospect Jerry Tillery.