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Titans luck out at No. 30

Club wanted LB but didn't figure Bulluck would drop

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Posted: Saturday April 15, 2000 10:58 PM

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Patience paid off a second straight year for the Tennessee Titans.

Tennessee wanted a linebacker out of Saturday's NFL Draft to finish revamping a unit that struggled in its Super Bowl season. Picking next-to-last in the first round, the Titans got the one player they targeted: Keith Bulluck of Syracuse.

"We had him projected somewhere around 20," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We really didn't think he'd fall."

With Bulluck still available at No. 30, the Titans thought briefly about trading down and trying to grab the linebacker in the second round. But Fisher said they decided not to get greedy.

The scenario offered a case of deja vu for the AFC champions. The Titans also watched and waited last April as Jevon Kearse fell to them at No. 16. Kearse became the Defensive Rookie of the Year after grabbing 14 1/2 sacks and forcing 10 fumbles in helping Tennessee to the first Super Bowl appearance in the franchise's 40-year history.

Titans First-Round Draft Picks
Year  Player  Pos  School 
2000  Keith Bulluck  LB  Syracuse  
1999  Jevon Kearse  LB  Florida 
1998  Kevin Dyson  WR  Utah 
1997  Kenny Holmes  DE  Miami-Fla 
1996  Eddie George  RB  Ohio State 
1995  Steve McNair  QB  Alcorn State 
1994  Henry Ford  DE  Arkansas 
1993  Brad Hopkins  Illinois 
1992  NO PICK       
1991  NO PICK       
1990  Lamar Lathon  LB  Houston 
1989  David Williams  Florida 
1988  Lorenzo White  RB  Michigan State  
1987  Alonzo Highsmith  FB  Miami 
1987  Haywood Jeffires  WR  N.C. State  
1986  Jim Everett  QB  Purdue 
1985  Ray Childress  DE  Texas A&M  
1985  Richard Johnson  CB  Wisconsin  
1984  Dean Steinkuhler  Nebraska 
1983  Bruce Mathews  USC 
1982  Mike Munchak  OL  Penn State 
1981  NO PICK       
1980  NO PICK        
1979  NO PICK       
1978  Earl Campbell  RB  Texas  
1977  Morris Towns  Missouri 
1976  NO PICK       
1975  Robert Brazile  LB  Jackson State 
1975  Don Hardeman  RB  Texas A&I 
1974  NO PICK       
1973  John Matuszak  DT  Tampa 
1973  George Amundson  RB  Iowa State  
1972  Greg Sampson  DT  Stanford 
1971  Dan Pastorini  QB  Santa Clara 
1970  Doug Wilkerson  N.C. Central 
 
 

Tennessee isn't expecting that kind of immediate impact from Bulluck. But the 6-2, 232-pound player is expected to start this season at outside linebacker, joining veteran Eddie Robinson with free agent signee Randall Godfrey in the middle.

Linebacking was the weak spot in Tennessee's defense last season.

Starters Barron Wortham and Joe Bowden each had 81 tackles, compared to Godfrey's 143 with the Dallas Cowboys in 1999. Bowden is an unrestricted free agent, and Fisher said they hope to bring him back to a team that never stopped looking for linebacking help in 1999.

Bulluck's biggest impact will come against the run. Fisher pointed out the AFC Central features several big running backs and got even tougher Saturday with the Baltimore Ravens drafting Jamal Lewis of Tennessee.

"He's a fast player that knocks people down. He keys well, instinctively reads runs," Fisher said. For Bulluck, the selection ended a long day of waiting with friends and family getting anxious as the first round rolled to an end with him still waiting. He even spent some time alone in a room as tensions rose.

"I wasn't necessarily upset. I knew wherever I got picked I'd just help that team win. I just happened to be fortunate enough to land with the AFC champions," Bulluck said. Bulluck was an All-Big East Conference player after leading the league with a career-high 138 tackles but just two sacks at middle linebacker. But he started his college career at strong safety and moves quickly across the field.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said Bulluck has the feet and hips of a cornerback and the size of a linebacker.

For the Titans, it's the eighth time they have used their No. 1 pick on a linebacker. Kearse played linebacker at Florida even though Tennessee always planned to put him at end, so Bulluck becomes the first true linebacker taken in the opening round since Lamar Lathon in 1990.

Drafting Bulluck also offered a change for the Titans, who cited character when they chose not to draft Randy Moss in 1998. Bulluck was arrested for drunk driving in February 1999 and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

Bulluck said he learned from the incident, and Fisher said he's confident that it was a one-time mistake.


 
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