It's obvious the Fighting Irish coaches want as many nasty guys up front as possible. This is especially true inside. Guys like Trevor Robinson, Eric Olsen, Dan Wenger, Andrew Nuss, and Braxston Cave are known for their toughness above all else. With the Irish stockpiling elite running backs they are going to need road graders up front.
Alex Bullard has the potential to be that kind of player. Where Bullard is different from those players is his build and his athletic ability. Listed at either 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4, Bullard only has average height. Combine that with his average arm length, athletic ability, and toughness I believe he projects at the guard position at the next level. I really like Bullard's frame. The Brentwood Academy standout is relatively slim and has an athletic body for a lineman. He has a strong upper body at this point and should be able to put on quite a bit of weight while maintaining his agility.
As mentioned previously the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Bullard is a very good athlete for an offensive lineman. He's explosive off the ball and works quickly to the second level. He is quick off the ball and explodes into defenders. While he needs to improve his footwork quite a bit, I really like his agility. Bullard has very good speed and moves quite well in space. He has been asked to block on the perimeter quite a bit in high school. Bullard shows the ability to move quickly outside, keep his balance, and made good contact on smaller, quicker players in space. The Brentwood Academy standout shows very good upper body strength for such a slim player. He has active legs and a good leg drive. He needs to improve his lower body strength and continue to get bigger and stronger, but I don't see him losing any of his athletic abilities.
Bullard has very strong hands and a strong punch. When he gets his hands solidly on a defender they go flying. It's an impressive thing to see. The problem is Bullard doesn't use his hands very well at this point. He doesn't use them as quickly as I believe he can. Inconsistent is probably being nice when talking about his hand placement. When he shoots at the snap I'd like to see him be quicker and tighter with his hands. The strength is there, and the potential for quickness (he shows it at times) is there, so I'm not overly concerned here. It is just something that he needs to work on.
The strength of Bullard's game is his ability as a run blocker. Bullard uses his explosiveness, upper body strength, and good leg drive to dominate his opponents. He can run block as a tackle or a guard, there is no doubt about that. But I like his potential on the inside more than the outside. He has the potential to be very effective on the interior. He works well in combo blocks and knocks defenders back when he engages as the helper. As I mentioned earlier he works quickly up to the second level and is strong against second level defenders. I also like how Bullard finishes. He uses his strong upper body and leg drive to consistently bury defenders. As a pass blocker there is quite a bit of room for improvement. First of all, as I talk about later, Bullard leans far too much. This is most noticeable in the pass game. His issues as a pass blocker won't be as great if he moves inside. I see him projecting as a solid pass blocker on the inside. His footwork needs improvement and he will need to learn how to extend his arms better in pass protection as well as mirroring defenders. Bullard will also need to learn to anchor inside against bigger players and bull rushes.
While he has good physical tools at this point Bullard is still quite raw as a player. To start off Bullard needs to be more consistent in his stance. At times he will get too wide in his stance, which forces him to sink his butt too much. Bullard also comes off the ball very high. He will need to learn to play with better leverage. At the snap his first movement is often to lift up instead of getting vertical. When he lifts up he loses his good base which causes him to lose some power. Despite this, as I mentioned earlier, he's explosive off the ball. As he improves this technique issue he'll be even more dominant, much more dominant. I would also like to see Alex always keep his head up at the snap. At times he will drop his head at the snap. I'm sure that will get worked out of him right away at Notre Dame if his high school coaches don't do it before then.
I'd also like to see Bullard become more efficient with his movements. This is a lower body and upper body issue at various times. There is a lot going on with Bullard whenever he is moving. At the snap he will take false steps. Instead of taking proper steps to get to his aiming point he will either just put his foot down in the previous spot or he'll sink his foot underneath his body. I'm sure those of you who like reading a lot of film evaluations read or hear the word "waste bender" quite often. Bullard at this point is a waste bender. He leans far too often. This happens in the run game and the pass game. This will absolutely have to get worked out of him. He needs to sink his hips more and allow his lower body to take him places. One final criticism is that once Bullard crushes a guy he tends to slow down or stop playing. He isn't a lazy player by any stretch. He plays very hard, so I imagine that as he matures as a player and develops you won't see this anymore.
Picking up Alex Bullard is a very nice addition to this class. The Irish need more talent and depth at the guard position. Bullard has an impressive first step. If the Irish are able to combine him with Chris Watt I will be ecstatic about the interior recruiting. Bullard fits the mold of the tough, aggressive, nasty run blocker the Irish seem to have targeted under Coach Weis. He's a kid who seems to love to hit people. I love players like that up front. But it's his athletic ability and upper body strength that really excite me. I look forward to seeing Bullard donning the blue and gold in South Bend.
In the Film Room: Alex Bullard
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