GAINESVILLE -- In 2012, Jon Bullard came to the University of Florida as the nations top defensive end prospect and the sixth-ranked player in the country.
In Saturdays 24-7 win over Kentucky, the sophomore recorded his first sacks of the season, and coach Will Muschamp called it the best game Bullard has played at Florida.
It happened to be Bullards most challenging game, too.
After star defensive tackle Dominique Easley was lost for the season with a torn ACL last Tuesday, the coaching staff moved Bullard a 6-3, 270-pound lineman inside.
Its not a permanent move but one that suits Floridas impenetrable defense best for now.
Im not going to say I enjoy it, but its what Ive gotta do, said Bullard who had 1 1/2 sacks against Kentucky. At the time being, its what we need, so Ive got to step in and do it the best I can.
Its not the easiest things to do, but its what Ive got to do. So Ive been working on different things, different techniques, learning from [nose tackle] Damien [Jacobs] how to take on different blocks in different situations from end, so Im adjusting to it. Ive got to adjust fast, so Ive just been working at it.
During Floridas training camp in August, Bullard practiced some at defensive tackle just for emergency situations.
Then, before the Kentucky game, the worst happened. Easley perhaps the nations top interior linemen was gone for the year, and the coaching staff looked to Bullard for increased production, except at a new position.
They told me they wanted me to step up a little more and play a little faster. They were telling me I was doing a good job, but they expected a little more, he said. I just wanted to go out and prove that I got it.
Both Muschamp and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin are confident the sophomore will have minimal issues transitioning inside. After all, Bullard was highly recruited for a reason.
Hes a big-bodied guy, Muschamp said. Hes got some fast-twitch for an inside player. He can give us a good push inside.
Said Durkin: I mean, he likes playing outside better than playing inside. But thats common for most guys. It is, you get more hands on you when youre inside. The blocks he sees are a little different, but again, thats something weve been working on with him since Day 1, since before Dominiques injury, because he was doing some of that. So you know, it is a new thing for him. Last year he was solely at end, but thats kind of the progression of a player. Now I mean, hes an older guy. Were asking him to do more for us, and hes doing a good job of it.
While his positional transition is still in its infant stage, Bullards toughest adjustment has been facing constant double teams.
At the end spot, youve usually got an outside shoulder free unless youre lined up in a five with the tight end. But you usually dont go against two 300-pounders as much as you do on the inside, so its just something youve got to work on and Ive got to get better at, he said.
Muschamp & Co. are counting on it.