Tennessee offensive lineman Alex Bullard attacked spring practice as if he were guaranteed to see the field in 2011.
The NCAA notified the Notre Dame transfer Thursday that all his hard work would be rewarded.
Bullard, a Franklin native who transferred to UT this past winter after the death of his father, received a hardship waiver from the NCAA and will be eligible to play in 2011, UT confirmed Thursday. The sophomore who was impressive from start to finish during the Vols’ 15 spring practices can now be considered a legitimate threat to steal snaps, or even find a starting job, on UT’s young offensive line.
A student-athlete typically must sit out a season when transferring within Division I. But in cases such as Bullard’s, where a player’s decision to transfer is motivated more by hardship than it is playing time, exceptions can be made.
“Just officially got the news,” Bullard wrote on his Twitter account Thursday evening. “Id like to give a shout out to the NCAA for allowing me to be eligible for this up coming season.”
Vols’ coaches didn’t quite know what they’d get this spring from Bullard, who is currently a walk-on, but he was thrust into action with the first team, as right tackle Ja’Wuan James was sidelined with mononucleosis. Bullard, who redshirted the 2009 season and saw action in three games last season at Notre Dame, also received plenty of work at center, where he currently sits second on the depth chart behind James Stone.
For his efforts, Bullard received the Harvey Robinson Award for being the biggest surprise on offense this spring.
“He has a lot of pride,” offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said near the end of spring practice. “He works very hard. He has talent. It's all brand new to him.
“He will progress. He's been a pleasant surprise for us.”
Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble