Michigan State RB Riley Bullough Evaluates Himself and the Team Post Spring Practice
Q: Coach Narduzzi said he’s resolved that he’s lost you. When we asked Dave Warner about where you are as the #1 running back, he said you really clearly are in it. He doesn’t really have a #1 yet. Riley, when you’ve gone 4 practices and they’re not sure if you’re 1 or not, that’s gotta make you extremely happy.
A: Definitely. It’s awesome. It’s also a tribute to the other running backs that have helped me since I’ve played running back. Nick, Jeremy, Nick Tompkins have all helped me. Andrew’s helped me a lot. So really, I’m just going in there trying to do the best I can do, and today I think worked out for me for the most part.
Q: I wanna go back with you in the first time I interviewed you and we broke the story that you committed to Michigan State on the radio show. You said, Yeah. They want me to play linebacker but I love offense. You didn’t see this as an option.
A: No, I never thought I’d play offense here. That’s why I was so surprised when Coach D called me up and told me I was gonna play for running back. I’ve had a lot of fun. Hopefully I can continue on the offense.
Q: He told us that he knew you were gonna play running back last year against Iowa. He just wanted you to get those mike reps the first 3 weeks. Does that kind of piss you off a little bit? He didn’t let you know that this was what he was thinking.
A: No, it doesn’t piss me off. Coach D is like that…he kinda keeps things to himself. I’m just happy he gave me the opportunity in the spring to come play tailback really.
Q: Seem like old times playing on the same side Max?
A: Yeah, it’s kinda like high school. I played quarterback, he played tight end. Really, we’ve done that a million times.
Q: You did that in the state championship game too, didn’t you?
A: We did. We did have a touchdown pass. A little bit longer.
Q: Riley, you heard your teammates. They’re excited about you. I talked to almost 30 of them and all of them said you’re the #1 guy. You’re the guy they want there. To have their faith this quick, what’s that mean to you?
A: It means a ton to have your teammates behind you. These are guys you’re working out with, you’re going to film with every day. So just to have them with you gives you confidence on the field. Really, you need confidence in order to do good. They’ve helped me along so it’s just a tribute to them.
Q: Does Ken Mannie now have you lift in a different way to be running back? Are there different things you’re gonna work on?
A: We kind of joke about that in the weight room all the time. I always tell him I’m gonna lift with a scale that I chose but he always puts me with a big scale. I’ll probably still lift at the big scale just because I’m a little bit bigger.
Q: Do you now have to go in and hit the film room in a big way over these next few months?
A: Definitely. I’ve been thinking about that ever since they put me at tailback. I need to learn the offense more. It helps you if you know what every guy’s doing…the linemen, the wide receivers…so that’s a big thing that I’ll try to do this summer.
Q: Will you go watch film, maybe Burkhead or go look at some guys who have been bigger running backs, and get some ideas? Or is that something you don’t really need any ideas because you’ve done it so much?
A: They’re great running backs, I could definitely look at them, but I kinda want to get my own style. I’ll probably watch film on this. I’m still trying to see what kind of runner I really am. So I think watching film in the future is gonna help with that.
Q: Is there somebody you like to watch when you’re watching games, whether it’s a college or pro running back?
A: No one in particular, but I’ve always loved power runners. Guys that weren’t afraid to put their head down and just try to run people over. That’s always what I’ve loved to do. I tried to that in high school at least. So it’s really what I love.
Q: Was it like The Bus or somebody?
A: Yeah, definitely guys like that.
Q: Last week, three different of your teammates when we asked them what makes you a good running back they said, He’s a Bullough. What do they mean?
A: I don’t know. That could mean a lot. Hopefully it just means I’m physical, a smart player and can make plays when you need them.
Q: Going from high school quarterback to doing this, how long is it gonna take to get comfortable? I’m sure it’s an ongoing process, but what are the big differences and big adjustments?
A: Definitely running back’s a different, quarterback’s a different feel. In high school, being able to have the ball in your hands every play is something you get used to. So yeah, it was a big transition to play for running back because I’ve never really don e it before. The high school experience I had playing so much experience I think has helped me now.
Q: How did that conversation go when they approached you about switching and what was your reaction at the time?
A: Coach D called me in on a Tuesday before practice. He said, Come in my office and talk about some things. He said, Let’s try an experiment out. We’re gonna put you at running back today and see what it looks like. So we’ve gone from there and that was a couple weeks ago. I think they like what they see and that’s why I played some today. Hopefully I can in the future.
Q: Were you surprised?
A: Yeah, I was definitely surprised. I actually started laughing when he told me. I didn’t expect it at all. But I’m just glad he gave me the opportunity.
Q: The way you were changing clothes down there from jersey to jersey and helmet to helmet, did you feel like Clark Kent running into a phone booth?
A: Yeah, that was the worst part about today. But it was fun playing on both sides. I was joking with the guys, I’m gonna wait to D on the game and see who’s up. I’m gonna switch my jersey in the corner and go to the other side. But it was fun.
Q: So that pass to your brother, was it a big surprise?
A: Yeah, he was actually on the sidelines I think when it happened. So he didn’t know. It was a surprise.
Q: Just like you drew it in the back yard?
A: Sorta just like that, yeah. Just like that.
Q: Stick in the dirt…
A: That’s basically what it was. All we did was draw it on the board, go run and try it.
Q; Do you need to know at some point if you’re gonna be playing running back, as far as how it affects your training?
A: Yeah, I plan on talking to the coaches the next couple of weeks, where they see me playing in the fall. My big thing is to get in the film room, look at some things in the offense. Learn the offense more. So really that’s the biggest thing.
Q: What do you think you need to pick up a running back? I know film study is part of it, but as far as the things that you would want to get more reps at in the offseason.
A: Everything. 7 on 7’s, doing some back drills with the other running backs, get some balance…that’s one thing I need to work on. But the biggest thing is the film room and understand everything that’s going on.
Q: When you played scout for the Iowa game, was there a part of you then that thought, “I can do this; this would be fun to do.”
A: Yeah. The fall’s different though. We’re never live. So we just gotta tag off on the running backs so it’s a lot different. Just coming in the spring, once I made a couple plays, I was like, Alright I think I can do this. Just get some confidence.
Q: So Riley, for you, you want to play running back. That’s what you want to do personally..
A: I don’t know. Offense is fun. Defense is a lot of fun too. Really, I know it sounds cliché, but I just wanna get on the field wherever I can play this year. And we’ll see what happens.
Q: Is it fair to say that you have pretty much the same kind of mentality? Because as mike you hit the hole and as running back you hit the hole.
A: Right. Yeah, definitely. That’s what I’m always saying. I always wanna forward lean. I always want power physical, just make positive plays. When I’m offense I always say if I can get 4 yds that’s all I need…just 4 yds every down.
Q: What happened on the fumble?
A: Yeah. Taiwan came and hit me, had a great hit. He just punched the ball out. I just tried to get over it, just tried to make some more plays afterwards but it definitely was a great hit.
Q: Is that a repetition thing? If you had 100 reps, 150…probably happens or doesn’t happen… that ball’s coming out.
A: Taiwan is so powerful. It’s hard… But I think definitely getting more reps, getting a hand on the ball more, definitely will help in the future.
Q: Riley, what’s your general impression of today’s game?
A: I think today went really well other than a couple plays. It was fun, playing offense out here and be able to play some tailback. Obviously that play to Max… We drew it up before we got over here, actually an hour before, so that was fun that it actually worked.