Las Vegas native Reggie Bullock was good enough as a high school running back for Alabama, LSU, Florida, Florida State, and Oregon to court him. Academics forced Bullock to opt for Arizona Western, where he earned consecutive 1000-yard seasons, earning the 2010 National JUCO Player of The Year Award. Why is Bullock not on most lists as a viable NFL prospect? Read on.
There are a few numbers that explain why Reggie Bullock is under the radar for the 2013 NFL Draft. One of them is 815-10, the number of rushing yards and touchdowns that the East Carolina transfer has during his final two years of college football. The other pair of numbers is 5’9″ and 178 – a height and weight that few NFL running backs have.
Noel Devine anyone?
I want to say “don’t go there,” but it’s not that simple. Bullock is a different kind of back than the West Virginia runner. Yet, it was size concerns that prompted the Senior Bowl coaching staff to exclude Devine from pass protection drills. Bullock’s physical dimensions will also get called into question, especially after he gutted-out a deep thigh bruise during a 2011 contest against Navy that cost him the rest of the season and, due to the freakish nature of the injury, also could have cost him his leg. By the time Bullock was healthy enough to play, the Pirates were content to roll with Vintavious Cooper, a 1000-yard back in his own right.
Bullock won’t be on the radar of many NFL teams because of his dimensions, but a spread-friendly organization would be smart to do its research because unlike Devine, Bullock can pass protect. Unlike Devine, Bullock looks like a true 178 and not the sub-170 Devine was at the Senior Bowl weigh-ins two years ago. And unlike Devine, Bullock is a more refined down hill runner. Danny Woodhead, Dexter McCluster, LaMichael James, Darren Sproles, and LaRod Stephens-Howling are better points of comparison along the spectrum of small, versatile backs.
I think if Bullock earns enough of a chance to demonstrate some of the things in an NFL camp that I’ve seen him do against Louisiana-Lafayette in this year’s New Orleans Bowl, he could surprise. The odds are slimmer for undrafted free agents, which I expect Bullock to be in May, but the right team at the right time could make all the difference. Two skills that Bullock has that could make that difference is his downhill mentality as a runner and his pass protection skills.
Bullock Between the Tackles
Bullock had 17 carries for 104 yards and 2 touchdowns against ULL because he provided the Pirates a spark and the team opted to ride him in this bowl game. One of these plays was a 1st-and-10 run of 13 yards from a 3×1-receiver, 11 personnel shotgun set with 6:05 in the third quarter. The right guard and center double-team the defensive tackle to the inside and the left guard and left tackle double-team the defensive end to open a hole between the two defenders.
Bullock hits the hole with authority. While it’s not as small of a crease as it appears from this angle, the senior running back repeatedly demonstrates skill with pressing lanes and cutting back through smaller openings than backs with a penchant to take runs to the corner store. Bullock’s running indicates to me that he understands why decisive running with good technique is even more important for a back with his size limitations.
Bullock bursts through the crease with authority and beats the edge defender through the hole for a quick six yards. This is expected of a player with Bullock’s physical skills. What’s unexpected is his balance and downhill mentality in the later stages of the run where many smaller backs try to get too cute. Instead, the ECU runner lowers his shoulder into the oncoming safety, bounces off the hit, slows his gait to avoid a head-on collision with the second safety coming from the right, and spins inside the defender with excellent balance for the score. Here’s the frame-by-frame.
Bullock may never turn into a special player, but this is a special run. The ECU runner had his legs cut at the four and he still manages to contort his body into position to reach the end zone despite only having one foot touch the ground after that contact with the second safety and reaching the end zone. Burst, balance, pad level, decisiveness, and agility are valuable traits for one back to have in the NFL. Louisiana-Lafayette may never be mistaken for an NFL team, but this was an NFL-caliber play.
I want to focus on his pass protection, because as a 5-9, 178-pound back he’ll need to show that he can do some of this if he wants a shot as a third down, spread runner in the NFL.
Bullock’s first assignment came on 1st and 10 with 14:12 in the half from a 2×1 receiver, 11 personnel shotgun set. He chips the defensive end with his inside shoulder. Considering the size differential between the two players, this is a good hit – and it’s not the only one.
Here’s a 2nd-and-seven from 20 personnel and 1×2 receivers. He’s the lead back in this offset pistol set with 10:12 in the half and he works to the edge of the pocket to take on the blitzing linebacker with good form.
Bullock does a nice job of getting between the defensive end and quarterback early in the play so he can square his body for the impending collision. He then takes a step forward to generate additional space so he lessens the chance of getting knocked into the quarterback.
The only mistake Bullock makes here is to lower his head in the act of delivering a punch to the defender as seen below.
Despite the technique flaw, Bullock gets his hands into the defender, delivers a punch, and turns the defender outside the pocket to funnel him away from the quarterback.
The delivery of the hit is especially good explosion and he follows up the contact with a second punch as the quarterback releases the ball. Telegraphing the hit with the lowered head needs to be corrected immediately or an NFL edge rusher eats Bullock’s lunch. Still, there are good things to work with here.
What I like most of all is the effort and smarts on the fly. Here’s a 2nd-and-10 play with 1:01 in the half that underscores this point. Bullock is the back in 10 personnel. This is a shotgun set with receivers 2×2 where he’s flanking the quarterback over right tackle. ULL blitzes two linebackers off the same side, but layers them in succession to confuse and overload the blocking scheme.
Bullock manages to make two blocks on this play, keep the play alive, and give the quarterback time to make perfect throw on the move to his wide receiver running a deep cross 40 yards down field that should have resutled in a touchdown. After the snap, Bullock crosses the formation to pick up the outside linebacker rushing off left tackle.
Bullock gets square as soon as he crosses the quarterback’s path. This is important because now he has more control to move laterally and use his hands while refining his angle to the pass rusher.
On this block, Bullock’s head is up as he delivers a two-handed punch with his body square to the defender despite needing to refine his body position. The downside of Bullock’s game is that he’s rarely going to have success anchoring against a defender bigger than a cornerback blitzing off the edge. However, the technique is good and it does afford the quarterback time to either release the ball or take evasive action. Hidden behind the offensive line is the second linebacker working around the corner as the first linebacker is knocking Bullock into the pocket.
The quarterback realizes it’s time to bug-out and the left tackle does a good job of helping Bullock with the outside linebacker. Meanwhile the inside linebacker rounds the corner and has a nice angle to the quarterback. Bullock has the presence of mind to see this developing and works outside to address the blitzer. It’s usually enough for a college team to expect a running back to successfully cross the formation and pick up one blitzer. It’s even better if that runner understands to work with the inside rush before working outside if the defense tries to overload that side with multiple blitzers. Bullock not only has to deal with the overload, but a layered look that could have been a disaster.
The linebacker has the advantage on Bullock due to his angle outside, but I like the running back’s hustle to work outside and deliver a push that forces the rusher wide of the quarterback.
There isn’t a day that goes when I’m studying the game where the “game of inches” truism isn’t reinforced with a play like this one. Bullock lays out for the chance to hit the linebacker bearing down on the quarterback and it’s this effort that makes the difference between a sack and what should have been a touchdown pass.
The result of this effort is the quarterback earning room to work to the right flat and throw the ball 40 yards down field to his receiver on a deep cross that hits his teammate in stride.
This play in pass protection and his 13-yard touchdown run demonstrate the Bullock knows he has to give every inch of effort to make something positive happen. He may never be a fantasy football owner’s idea of a dream pick, but on the right team and in the right scheme I think he could be far more valuable to an NFL team than the fact he’s not on the collective radar of most draftniks.
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