Can Tulloch Start as a Rookie?

Stephen Tulloch

Several Tennessee officials met with the media Sunday afternoon and discussed fourth-round draft pick Stephen Tulloch.

Several Tennessee officials met with the media Sunday afternoon and discussed fourth-round draft pick Stephen Tulloch.

When asked if Tulloch could compete for a starting spot at middle linebacker, General Manager Floyd Reese's answer was very direct.

"Yeah, I think that's what we're planning on him to take a shot at it," Reese said. "He's a very talented guy. He's got great instincts.

"His running, jumping, height, weight and speed numbers aren't going to knock you over, but when you watch him play with his attitude, intensity and all those kinds of things, then all of sudden you like him."

Like Reese, Titan head coach Jeff Fisher spoke highly of Tulloch.

"Obviously, linebacker is a need for us," Fisher said. "We are looking to upgrade the whole group with depth.

"Stephen Tulloch is somebody that we watched last night again. Out of high school, he is the Dade County (FL) Player of the Year and imagine the players that came out of Dade County.

"The staff at NC State said he was a terrific football player. He was surrounded with good players, and he did a great job. He's very active. He's a little short but he's got very, very quick feet. (He's) explosive and separates very well. We're going to move him inside to the middle. He played outside but we feel he like he will be able to play inside."

Tennessee scout Blake Beddingfield had been tracking Tulloch throughout the 2005 season, and he believes Tulloch was the driving force behind the Wolfpack's outstanding defensive unit.

"He is the leader on defense. He is the emotional guy. He is just the guy that makes the defense go."

"He is the guy that made the team go," said Beddingfield. "He is the leader on defense. He is the emotional guy. He is just the guy that makes the defense go. He's an aggressive, instinctive player. Very quick. He's a little short but this guy has made a lot of tackles, 134 tackles. Twenty-one tackles for a loss, six sacks. Twenty-one tackles for a loss tells me he's making plays behind the line of scrimmage or at the line and this is what this guy does.

"He can slip under blocks. He can play off blocks. He's quick. He is instinctive in the pass and the run. Stephen was a junior coming out early but the coaches just raved about this kid. With all the first-rounders, some will tell you that he's the best defensive player for this team."

Some suggested Tulloch made the plays he did because his defensive line featured three first round picks. Was that the case?

"When you watch the plays that he does make, you can see that he can make those on defense without the players in front on him," Beddingfield said. "That's just the type of guy he is. He just is an instinctive football player. He knows where the ball is.

"He's very quick to read and react, whether it's run or pass. He's a quick pre-snap read guy. He understands the defense. You will enjoy talking to him. (He's) a great kid to be around."

Tulloch surprised many when he declared for the NFL Draft after his junior season, but it looks like the decision may have worked out well for him. The No. 116 overall selection, Tulloch has a chance to play right away for the Titans, as the AFC team is in desperate need of productivity at linebacker.

The 5-foot-11, 230-pound linebacker led the Wolfpack with 150 tackles this season, ranking second in the ACC and 12th nationally.

The Miami, Florida, native played in 35 games in his three-year career, starting 18 contests. Tulloch was a first-team All-ACC performer in 2005 and was named the MVP of the Meineke Car Care Bowl after notching a game-high 15 tackles, including five for loss and three sacks) and forcing and recovering a fumble.

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