Bullard getting comfortable inside

One player in the middle of the Florida defensive line can't fill the loss of Dominique Easley. The versatility of Jonathan Bullard could fill some of the role. The Florida staff used him some at defensive tackle during the first three games with Easley on the field, but after Easley's season-ending ACL tear last week, Bullard played more reps than before at defensive tackle against Kentucky.

The sophomore played exclusively at defensive end during his freshman year, but that will change now that Dominique Easley is out for the season.

"It's not the easiest thing to do, but it's what I've got to do," Jonathan Bullard said. "I've been working on different things, different techniques, learning from Damien (Jacobs) how to take on different blocks in different situations from end, so I'm adjusting to it. I've got to adjust fast, so I've just been working at it."

The work has come in practice. Bullard said he doesn't plan to try adding weight inside. His combination of size and burst is the reason the coaches want to put him inside. The speed inside made Easley special, and while Bullard doesn't have the same burst at the defensive tackle position, he has speed that the other defensive tackles on the roster don't have.

The difference is the double teams.

When playing at defensive end, Bullard is usually one-on-one with an offensive tackle. On the inside, Damien Jacobs warned Bullard that he would see frequent double teams from a guard and center. After playing exclusively defensive end last season, Bullard has to find new ways to prepare for a double team.

"Just going against the scout team, I know it ain't going to be the exact same, but we're really working on my pad level and my leverage of the blocks," Bullard said. "Trying to stay on one man instead of worrying about both of them at one time."

The move is new to Bullard, and he's still growing into it. That's part of the reason he isn't in love with it at this point. It's new to him after spending a large portion of his football career at defensive end.

"I'm not going to say I enjoy it, but it's what I've gotta do," Bullard said. "At the time being, it's what we need, so I've got to step in and do it the best I can. I wouldn't really say it's much of a drag, it's just something I'm not used to doing.

"I haven't ever done it before, so of course I don't feel as comfortable inside as I do outside. I wouldn't say that it's a big drag to it. It's a drag to me because I'm not used to it right now, but after I get the hang of it and get used to it, I'm sure I'll be fine."

His teammates see the potential. Even if Bullard isn't comfortable as a defensive tackle now, the other defensive tackles on the Florida roster think he can be a force in the middle.

"I like him inside because he's quick," Jacobs said. "He can do a lot of things that Easley can do because of his quickness inside. He's going to definitely have to work some double teams because it's going to be coming this week.

"He's not all the way used to playing those kind of blocks, so he's going to have to get used to it this week."

The coaches saw it as a natural fit for him to get reps at defensive tackle.

"Jon's a very talented player and he was playing both inside and outside before," defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. He's good at the point of contact. He's played a lot of football for us -- just in his year and a half of being here, he's played a lot of football. I think it's good. He gets different matchups. I think that's something we can take advantage of."

There's plenty of room for Bullard to grow inside, but head coach Will Muschamp called his game against Kentucky the best game of his Florida career. He made three tackles and added 1.5 sacks while splitting time at defensive end and defensive tackle.

"I would just say I just had a good week of practice," Bullard said. "We were working on different things. They told me they wanted me to step up a little more and play a little faster. They were telling me I was doing a good job, but they expected a little more. I just wanted to go out and prove that I've got it."


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