When Notre Dame defensive lineman Jarron Jones went down with a preseason knee injury, true freshman Jerry Tillery was tabbed by many as his likely replacement at nose guard for the Fighting Irish.
Coach Brian Kelly told reporters in South Bend this week the listing of sophomore Daniel Cage ahead of Tillery was more about the older player than the younger one.
"Oh, I think this is more Daniel Cage," Kelly said. "We wouldn't be hesitant -- if Jerry was the best player, Jerry would play. He's a really good player and he's going to play a lot, and we need him to be in there for us, but Daniel has definitely shown that he should be listed ahead of Jerry right now."
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Kelly also pointed out Tillery, a four-star recruit from Shreveport, La., who enrolled early last winter, is learning both inside positions in the Notre Dame defense. That is not true of Cage, who only plays the nose.
"We've asked Jerry to do a lot more and that's not necessarily an easy thing to do as a true freshman, but he's pretty unique," Kelly said while acknowledging cross-training the frosh might have held him back a little bit.
"Possibly, because we asked him to do two things and play two different positions," Kelly said. "I think you will not know, as you watch the game, you won't be able to count up, well, Cage played more than Tillery. It's going to be pretty seamless."
Cage played in 11 games last season, making four tackles. The Cincinnati native is listed at just over 6-foot and 315 pounds while Tillery goes 6-6.5, 305.