I've just finished watching the tape of Iowa defeating Indiana today which gave me a chance to have a good look at left tackle Bryan Bulaga. He's a junior lineman who might declare for the 2010 draft based on the fact it's not a strong class - potentially raising his stock higher than it otherwise would've been. If I had to be pushed at this stage I'd guess he might stick around for his senior year, but with the Hawkeye's unbeaten who knows what he'll decide if they have an unbeatable season in 2009?
I'll start with the positives. Bulaga is a strong guy and for the most part he overpowered his opponent using brute strength, driving through his blocks and pushing his man backwards. His use of hands was faultless, often delivering a solid punch or just managing to position his block to open a hole. He coped well against the bull rush but wasn't really tested by a decent edge rusher. His footwork wasn't always great, but he made up for it with power and had relative success in both pass protection and the run game. In fact, on a number of occasions he was able to open up a pretty big gap for the running back to exploit and he wasn't beaten once in pass protection.
The question I have to ask though is whether or not Bulaga will be able to dominate using just his strength in the NFL? It's one thing to over match your opponent playing a pretty average Indiana pass rush, it's another to stop Jared Allen or Julius Peppers using just your upper body strength. Having said that, he is a strong guy and won't come up against elite rushers every week. If I had to place him right now - I think he could be a very good right tackle in the NFL but only an average left tackle.
I was going to complain about his unwillingness to get to the second level and clearly there were a couple of times where he blocked off and just ended up standing there anxiously looking around for something to do. He didn't show the same kind of desire we see from Charles Brown to get in there and attack a linebacker. However, right in the last minute there he was blocking downfield as the Hawkeye's scored a rushing TD to kill the game - so I'm not sure it isn't something he could develop.
According to the game announcers, Iowa were running a variation of the zone blocking scheme. That probably helps him from a Seahawks perspective, because I don't think he's the prototypical lineman they look for. He's not really agile or nimble although his footwork isn't completely awful. He's got good height and isn't too big across the middle (6'6", 310lbs). As I've said before, I think with regard to Seattle and a lot of other teams he could be a plug in, year one starter at right tackle who ends up filling the position for 10 years. However, I also thought Jake Long was pretty much the same thing - an all-pro right tackle but a pretty average blind side guy. He got drafted first overall to play left tackle, so I think teams will target Bulaga as such in the same way. I do think he's a potential first round pick and with another year's seasoning he could be quite a high one.