August 4, 2013

Bailey holding his own

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Four days in fall camp and redshirt sophomore Sterling Bailey appears to still be holding strong as the team's projected starter at right defensive end.

When the post-spring depth chart was released, the Gainesville native, to the surprise of some, found himself listed as the starter, ahead of junior Ray Drew.

Granted, there's still a ways to go before the Aug. 31 opener at Clemson, and a lot can still happen. But so far, Bailey is proving his coaches' confidence was well placed.

"I'm just trying to get my spot and hold it," Bailey said. "It's still pretty hard. Everybody is coming out each and every day battling, trying to earn a spot. I've got to come out with the same mentality."

Although it's still early, depth does not appear to be an immediate problem.

Bailey is one of 10 defensive linemen currently working out under new position coach Chris Wilson.

Granted, only Garrison Smith, Drew, Bailey and Mike Thornton have played in an SEC game before, the newcomers like Chris Mayes, Toby Johnson, John Atkins have opened some eyes early on.

Redshirt freshman Jonathan Taylor has also impressed.

"We've got a lot of depth," Bailey said. "Come game time we're going to have a good rotation."

That's what Wilson is banking on.

"I don't think anything motivates a player more than competition," Wilson said. "Coaches are good but a guy who sits with you every day in the locker room every day is even better, especially when you know he can challenge for your job and the great thing about this place, we've got a lot of guys who will have a lot of opportunities."

Bailey can attest to that.

"There's always going to be competition," Bailey said. "It's just up to Coach Wilson which of will be No. 1, because both of us I feel can play.

"Coming into spring, my goal was just to get better. I got a little taste of what it was like to play last year, but this year I wanted to come out and show Coach I'm worthy of being out there with the rest of my teammates."

So far, so good.

"I've been doing OK. I've still got some bugs I need to work on like pad level and coming off the ball better than I have, using my hands … small things, really," Bailey continued. "I'm just trying to show coaches I know what to do, that I know how to stay in my gaps."

Smith isn't concerned.

Although the Bulldogs lost the likes of John Jenkins, Kwame Geathers and Cornelius Washington, Smith says Bailey and the rest of the newcomers who will make up Georgia's defensive line are ready to make an impact.

"We'll be fine," Smith said. "I don't see any drop-off. If anything, we're going to be better. I've got faith in every one of these players."

It's a lighter version of Bailey who will take the field for the Bulldogs.

After getting as high as 300 pounds, Bailey said he's currently down to 285, although he wants to play at somewhere between 290 and 295.

Injuries are certainly something that's kept Bailey from reaching his potential thus far.

His freshman season was spent recovering from shoulder surgery early in 2011, followed by more surgery later that year to repair ligament damage in his foot.

That particular operation forced him to miss spring practice in 2012, and later underwent more surgery in October, this time to repair a damaged thumb.

"It's been frustrating, but my parents, my pastor, my grandparents, my family and teammates, they've always kept me up, always telling me I can do it," Bailey said. "Even though things weren't going the way I was wanting them to go, they kept me looking ahead and confident that things will turn out for the best."

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