Vols football practice - Aug. 11, 2011
Corey Miller talks about the Vols' first scrimmage of the fall
Eric Gordon talks about the defense after Thursday's practice
Marsalis Teague talks about the competition for starting positions
Coach Derek Dooley comments after Thursday morning's practice
Dooley gets Shakespearean with the Vols
Dooley talks about sophomore Alex Bullard's flexibility on offense
Shopping for help on the Tennessee offensive line is much easier these days.
No matter what they might need, with Alex Bullard around it's one size fits all for the Vols.
A tackle goes down with mononucleosis in the spring? Just plug in Bullard.
Need depth at center? Try Bullard.
Less than pleased with the battle at left guard after the first scrimmage of camp earlier this week? The next time the Vols hit the field for the first of two practices on Thursday, naturally Bullard was checking off another new spot in the rotation.
"Just knowing all three positions helps me understand the concepts better," Bullard said. "So, I mean, I've been at center and tackle and (Thursday) is the first time since I've been here that I lined up at guard — and I knew what to do because I knew both tackle and center.
"It wasn't a big adjustment."
The fact that the sophomore brushes off or doesn't seem to worry about differences between any of the five positions on the line helps make him the ideal candidate to fill them all if need be, and his 6-foot-2, 309-pound body and a high-level football mind don't hurt, either.
The versatility of the Notre Dame transfer has made him the ultimate multipurpose tool for the Vols up front since he can play anywhere along the line, even without much notice. And after one scrimmage with mixed results in a battle at left guard, the Vols quickly turned to Bullard to plug a possible hole.
"He gets about 20 percent of the reps that the other guys get at a position, so it's hard on him," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "But it's very valuable for us because when we've got a little hole to plug, he's like the cork.
"He's got a kind of body type that can be a good physical guard. He's not a prototype tackle, but he's got enough range to hold up in space, he's smart and he's tough. ...
"A lot of guys are smart, but either they lack the power for guard or lack the range for tackle or lack the command for center. He's kind of a jack of all (trades)."
It might help Bullard develop personally if he could focus on just one position, though he's not pushing for it and seems keenly aware that his flexibility can be mutually beneficial.
A competitor by nature, Bullard obviously wants to play and contribute for the Vols, and if there are five options available instead of one, that gives him a better chance to do it. At the same time, it allows UT to find an easy solution when Ja'Wuan James gets sick or the guards struggle to establish themselves.
Regardless of the position, Bullard offers one-stop shopping to find a replacement.
"If the coaches at the end of the day when it's time to play Montana decide that I'm one of the top five guys, then of course I'll be in there," Bullard said. "If not or if somebody goes down, I'll be ready to go and contribute that way so we don't miss a beat. One thing I learned when I was at Notre Dame was the next man goes in, and I kind of bring that philosophy here. If somebody goes down, we don't miss a beat, go back in there and keep coming.
"I think I can find a home at any position. If my role ends up being backing up, I can find a home there. It's just my personality, I'm always fighting to be the best. You know, I don't want to be just in the top five — I want to be No. 1."
In terms of versatility, Bullard is already at the top of the list.