Target 2004: Chase Bullock

DURHAM -- Northern Durham linebacker Chase Bullock has played varsity football for just one and half seasons. In fact, he had never played any organized sports other than basketball until his sophomore year.

Nevertheless, Bullock is considered one of the state's top linebackers following a junior season in which he recorded 127 tackles (16 for loss), 3 sacks and an interception.

His top three choices are "Wake Forest, UNC and Virginia right now," Bullock said. "Coaches tell me that education is the most important thing. They tell me to think about education first, before I make my decision."

Wake is the only school that has officially offered Bullock, who is considering committing early in order to focus on his senior year on the football field.

Not to worry, UNC assistant Kenny Browning – the Knights' head coach from 1976-1993 – is keeping frequent tabs on him.

"Real often…like once a week," Bullock said. "He says that Carolina has a great atmosphere and great fans."

"You really haven't seen how high his talent level can be once he gets to playing more," Northern head coach Gary Merrill said. "He has the physical tools. Once he gets used to playing more, you will see him show up more with his speed and quickness on the field. He won't be thinking as much about his responsibility, he'll just play. I think that comes with a couple of years of playing time."

Bullock came out late his sophomore year and played on the JV squad for the first few games. But his potential was so evident that Merrill brought him up to the varsity level for the last five games of 2001.

"He had never played the game before," Merrill said. "He will have a lot of opportunities. He can be as good as anyone I've seen at linebacker, including people we've played against. He's definitely a Division I player. What he needs to work on is flexibility and that will allow him to be faster and quicker. He's not as flexible as he needs to be."

The recruiting pipeline between Chapel Hill and Northern has been a productive one with former UNC players such as Kory Bailey, Nate Hobgood-Chittick and Mike Salzano just to name a few. Merrill came to Northern as an assistant under Browning in 1982, and then took over as head coach in 1994.

Browning's legacy still rings loud and clear throughout the halls at Northern. He posted a 178-35 overall record and led the Knights to the 1993 state 4-A title, and was named N.C. High School Coach of the Year in 1992 and 1993. And Merrill has done an excellent job in continuing the success. In 2002, Riverside became the first school other than Northern to win the PAC-6 conference since 1983.

But Merrill is also quick to point out that many of his stars have wound up elsewhere such as A.J. Davis, James Adams and Josh Gattis. Perhaps the Knights most successful alumnus, Dewayne Washington of the Pittsburgh Steelers, opted for N.C. State after playing under Browning. Of course, Washington graduated from Northern before Browning joined the Tar Heels and Merrill joined the Knights' coaching staff.

"Sometimes you have to separate the friendship part of it from the other part, which is the kids," Merrill said. "If it gets to the point where they want to ask me some specific questions and get my personal opinion, then I will tell them. But if they don't ask, I don't tell them. That is up to the player and the parents to pick the school.

"So even in the recruiting with Carolina right now, I'm not telling kids to go to Carolina," he said. "I'll never say that. That's a decision they have to make."

Chase Bullock
1st Position: LB
Ht: 6-3
Wt: 215
40-Time: 4.6

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