Robert Bullard appears to have a leg up on the internal battle at Air Force, but the bigger struggle awaits.
The theme of coordinator Steve Russ’s defense is pressure, which he creates by bringing frequent blitzes from all directions. If the blitz doesn’t get there, it’s often up to cornerbacks to defend one-on-one.
That’s a precarious position, to say the least.
“It’s demanding, but as a corner and an athlete that’s what you want,” said Bullard, an avid fisherman who doesn’t mind a little solitude. “You want the opportunity to go for it. It’s fun, but at the same time it’s demanding.”
Bullard isn’t averse to venturing outside his comfort zone. From the moment coach Troy Calhoun and former assistant Clay Hendrix visited his high school in Covington, Ga., and explained life at the academy, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound junior knew he wouldn’t be content accepting offers from Furman and Georgia State.
“It was just a different environment,” said Bullard, who spent a year at the prep school. “Their drive for success… I wanted to challenge myself.”
He hasn’t been the only one providing the challenge. The Falcons graduated their entire defensive secondary, leaving plenty of competition at cornerback. Senior Marquis Griffin, the lone returner with experience, has kept a firm grip on the field-side spot, but the other position has rotated since spring between junior Dailen Sutton, senior Brett Baldwin and Bullard, with sophomores Zane Lewis and Eric Ward also providing some pressure.
Right now, Bullard has emerged.
“Robert is a tough kid who is a good competitor and has continued to improve since he’s been here,” Russ said. “He’s tough and physical and competitive, which are all highly important in a corner. We look forward to watching him continue to develop.”
In evaluating himself, Bullard sees his press skills and ability to read a quarterback as his strengths.
“It’s just trying to be adaptable,” he said.
Right now, after two seasons consigned to backup duty and some special teams work, Bullard is adapting to life as a starter. But he knows the challenge is ongoing.
“Just because I’m here right now doesn’t mean I’m going to be here tomorrow,” he said. “You’ve got to come every day with that sense of urgency and will to work.”