The Bullough family is devoted to Sparty. Riley became the fourth member of the family to play in East Lansing, with all four topping 200 career tackles (uncle Chuck had 391; father Shane, had 311; brother Max had 299; Riley with 214). His grandfather Hank was also an MSU offensive lineman and went on to play for the Green Bay Packers and coach for years in the NFL. Bullough redshirted his first year on campus, becoming one of the top players on the scout team. He moved from linebacker to fullback the following spring, playing as a reserve (22-83 rushing; 3-11 receiving) and on special teams as a sophomore until moving back to defense before the bowl game. Back at linebacker full-time in 2014, Bullough started one of 13 games played (29 tackles, four TFL, 3.5 sacks). His play against Baylor on the final series of the Cotton Bowl secured a victory, as he assisted on a sack and intercepted a pass with two seconds remaining. That play portended a second-team All-Big Ten junior year where he led the Spartans with 106 tackles (7.5 for loss, four sacks). Bullough showed up again in the team's semifinal loss to Alabama, making 11 tackles. Voted a team captain in 2016, Bullough was also a third-team all-conference pick (76 tackles, 6.5 TFL) despite missing three games with a shoulder injury. He won the team's "Most Inspirational Player" award in each of his final two seasons, as well.
Football smart and understands his run fits. Willing to play downhill and get dirty. Gets most out of his natural play speed. Will accelerate into contact to maximize his force. Senses running back's shifting path and responds. Makes well-timed leaps to take down perimeter runs before they hit the corner. Reads and responds to quarterback's eyes in space. Snared four interceptions over 2014-15 seasons. Football is in his veins. Along with father (Shane), uncle (Chuck) and brother (Max), Riley is one of four Bullough family members to lead the Spartans in tackles. Max plays for the Texans.
Better junior tape than in 2016. Small for the inside and gets swallowed by size. Uses shoulder-over-hands technique in take-on opportunities. Average athletic ability. Struggles to recover if he overshoots his run fit. Tight hips preclude effective change of direction and short-area burst to close out cutting runners. Too many shoe-string tackle attempts. Stiffer than you like in coverage. Missed three games in 2016 with shoulder injury. Logged three personal fouls in first quarter against Maryland, including ejection for targeting.
Sources Tell Us
"He's like a mini version of his brother (Max). They are both tough guys who are born and bred Big Ten linebackers. Riley's probably a better athlete but he's small. He has the mindset to be a good special teams player so he could end up in the league." --Midwest regional scout for NFC team
Tenacity and willingness to play as physically as his body will allow will make him a favorite of special teams coaches, but his lack of size and plus athleticism could make it hard to find playing time, especially as an inside linebacker. He could go on Day 3 (Rounds 4-7), but his road to the roster could be bumpy.