2012 Intro: Jonathan Bullard

SHELBY, N.C. --- During his coaching career, Mark Barnes has coached several Division I-A defensive linemen, including Bryon McKnight, Travian Robertson, and Hilee Taylor. Barnes, who is now the head coach of Crest, believes Jonathan "Jon-Jon" Bullard is in the same league.

"He's as good as anybody I've ever coached," Barnes said. "I compare [Bullard] a lot to [the guys I've coached]…

"Very rarely in high school do you see players who can play plays at them and away from them – those are the special type kids. [Bullard] is strong enough to play plays at him against good players and he's fast enough when it's away he can still make a play.

"I think Jon-Jon's biggest strength is he's a big guy, who understands leverage and is physical, but he has a linebacker's reaction and change-of-direction. He can stick his foot in the ground and change his direction very fast for a guy who plays that position."

Additionally, Bullard is a good enough athlete that he saw significant reps at tight end for Crest last season and could see reps under center this coming season.

"He is athletic enough to be a quarterback for us," Barnes said. "He throws the ball well enough for us… We may have the ability to [put Bullard at quarterback] next year – we should have done it [last] year. I joke about it with him at practice, but he's our best thrower. It was a joke a lot of times, but at the end of the year we thought ‘We probably should have done it.'"

Regardless, Bullard is primarily being recruited to play defensive end.

"I want to stay at defensive end," Bullard said. "I wouldn't want to [play defensive tackle]. I want to stay on the end – I don't want to go inside."

Following a junior season in which he recorded 107 tackles – including 25 for a loss and 16 sacks – Bullard was named the Big South Conference's Defensive Player-of-Year beating out several Division I-A defensive prospects, including Zeek Bigger (who signed with East Carolina), Rhaheim Ledbetter, and Nortavious and Norkeithus Otis (signed with North Carolina). Barnes attributes much of Bullard's success to slimming down to 245 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame.

"It's a good 245 [pounds]," Barnes said. "I think he played a lot heavier than that his sophomore year. He can carry heavier, but he transformed from having some fat on his body to being more muscle. We think he could carry 280 – we think he's a guy who could play inside [the defensive line] in college."

Thus far, five schools have verbally offered Bullard – Clemson, Florida, North Carolina, NC State, and South Carolina – with more likely to come.

"[The college interest] is growing every day," Barnes said. "I think not a lot of people knew a lot about him coming into this year. Everybody that has watched him play in-person is going to offer him."

With his interest constantly increasing, Bullard doesn't claim any favorite schools.

"I'm not really leaning anywhere, so I wouldn't put one on top of another," Bullard said. "I'll probably have top schools by mid-season."

Bullard has already made visits to Clemson, UNC, NC State, and South Carolina. He will return to Clemson this Saturday and plans to visit Florida over the summer.

"I just want a school that's going to be for me academically – not just football," Bullard said. "If I don't make it to the next level after college, I want something to lean on. And I'm looking for a good place that I fit into.

"I wouldn't put any D1 school out of it, because I don't know what's best for me. Everyone, including [UNC], has a chance, if I'm what they want. Everybody has a fresh shot."

A "big factor," according to Bullard, is where teammate Rhaheim Ledbetter ends up.

"We're planning on [playing together in college]," Bullard said. "We're trying to go where it's the best for both of us. He's not just on my team, he's like my brother – that's my best friend. So we're trying to go to the same school"

Bullard constantly seeks the advice of a former teammate – Reggie Wilkins, who is a red-shirt freshman at UNC.

"I talk to Reggie a lot," Bullard said. "I talk to him about my recruitment. He helped me out a little bit and got me out when people were coming to see him his senior year. He'll tell them about me."

Video provided by Jason Pughe of AthleteVault.com.

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