Editor’s note: Each day between now and Florida’s Allstate Sugar Bowl date with Louisville, GatorNation will review the season for a key Gators player and attempt to project what’s next. Today we’ll look at DE Jonathan Bullard.
26 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 7 QB hurries
Role in 2012: Bullard earned playing time as a reserve defensive end and improved throughout the season. By November, he was one of Florida’s most consistent pass rushers.
The good: It’s hard for a freshman to play on the defensive line in the SEC, but Bullard was on the field right away. He naturally started slowly but gradually improved and ended up leading the team in QB hurries. The 6-foot-3, 271-pound Bullard has good quickness and power and gave experienced SEC offensive tackles some trouble. He had seven tackles against Vanderbilt and recorded three tackles and 1.5 sacks against Missouri. Bullard also was solid against the run.
The bad: He’s pretty raw as a pass rusher and relied on his strength and athleticism to get to the quarterback. Sometimes that resulted in him being out of position or unable to make a play. It’s the normal problems that all freshmen face as they try and adjust to the higher level of competition. Bullard needs to refine his technique and get stronger and in better shape.
Crystal ball: He enrolled in the fall so this will be his first experience with the offseason conditioning program. That should take care of his strength and conditioning. Working in the spring with defensive line coach Bryant Young should take care of the technique issue. That sets Bullard up to be the starter at end in 2013 -- and potentially become the big-time pass rusher the Gators have lacked since 2009.