March surgery to repair an injured shoulder robbed freshman Sterling Bailey of the opportunity to make a contribution his first year as a member of the Georgia Bulldogs.
But he's not complaining.
Instead of moping around worrying with what might have been, Bailey is using the season to not only get healthy, but learn a thing or two by being a fulltime member of the scout team, going against the No. 1 offense.
"It's been fun. I know what I'm doing may not seem like much, but I'm helping the offense prepare for the teams ahead," Bailey said. "But I'm also helping myself, and that's important, too."
Head coach Mark Richt has been impressed with the graduate of East Hall, a former four-star performer who was selected to take part in last year's U.S. Army All-American Game.
In fact, if not for the injury, which he played with for much of his senior season, Richt hinted that the outside linebacker would likely have seen playing time this fall.
"He's able to do everything right now. He started about, it seems like about Game 2 or 3, he started working extensively with the scout team," Richt said. "It seems like he had a little bit of a setback, but he's been back out there working. He's a very athletic guy who we're looking forward to seeing what he can do. If he didn't have that shoulder surgery going in, my guess is he'd be on the other field right now and not working with the scout team."
Bailey admits the initial idea of redshirting wasn't what he wanted to do.
"It was tough," he said. "Whenever they first told me I was getting redshirted I was like 'Man' but as I talked to the upper classmen, they kept reassuring me it's the best year because you're able to get bigger and learn."
At 265 pounds, Bailey said he's added 10 pounds since first arriving on campus in June.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham currently has him working at both the Will and Sam positions.
"I'm able to do everything," Bailey said. "I can't wait until spring."
Gates thinks his "cousin" will do well
Kenarious Gates was a pretty decent basketball player in his own right at Greenville High.
But nothing like his cousin - Georgia freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is being counted on to play a huge role for Mark Fox's squad this upcoming hoops campaign.
"He's going to do well," Gates said. "I used to could block one every now and then, but yeah, he was a lot better than me."
Caldwell-Pope averaged close to 30 points per game during both his junior and senior seasons at Greenville.
"I remember back in seventh grade," Gates said. "He was better than everybody then."
Would White welcome Missouri to the SEC?
As a native of Columbia, Mo., tight end Aron White has a unique perspective when it comes to his hometown school Missouri potentially joining the SEC.
"I wouldn't be opposed to it, but at the end of the day I don't want the Big 12 to dissolve. The Big 12 was a big part of my childhood growing up in Columbia, Mo., and I still like Mizzou just as long as they're not playing Georgia," he said. "I've got friends who have played for that team and I knew the coaching staff pretty well and everything like that. "
How would he think the Tigers would do?
"It's a team that's done pretty well for itself, especially the past five or six years. They recruit very well, their facilities are top notch and it's a nice college town. I think they could come into the SEC and compete, but it would definitely be a drastic change, I feel like, for their schedule week in and week out, because they'll be playing SEC teams and in my opinion that's the top competition in the nation," he said. "At the same time, if they came here I wouldn't be mad except for the fact that I wouldn't have got to play Mizzou while I was here."
Dawgs changed Gilliard's mind
Growing up in Valdosta, junior linebacker Mike Gilliard always hoped he would play college football.
He just never figured it would be for the Georgia Bulldogs.
"Honestly, it was sort of between Florida State and Miami for me, being from South Georgia," Gilliard admitted earlier this week. "But Georgia started recruiting me and I started learning the traditions. I loved it."
Gilliard rattled off the names of Thomas Davis, Tim Jennings and Greg Blue as three former Bulldogs whose play in Athens helped change his mind.
Other former South Georgia stars are also starting to look north as well, including current teammates like fellow Valdosta High alumni Malcolm Mitchell, Jay Rome, along with Mitchell County's Justin Scott-Wesley and Ray Drew of Thomas County Central.
"I feel like growing up in South Georgia, there's a bunch of guys, where the pipeline - especially from Valdosta - was to Florida State," Gilliard said. "I don't know what it is, but now since some of the success we've had around here at Georgia, a bunch of young kids are starting to look at here, because guys are coming up here and having great success, plus the whole tradition. It's one of the main things people are looking to nowadays."
Conley ready for his opportunity
With Mitchell out for Saturday's game while nursing a hamstring injury, Chris Conley has been mentioned by coaches as one receiver who will be expected to step up and fill his shoes.
Although Conley was an early enrollee, it initially appeared that the freshman would be facing a redshirt campaign.
But after steadily improving through the early part of the season, Conley now figures to be one of the first wideouts off the bench Saturday in support of Tavarres King, Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett.
"I definitely thought there would be a possibility for me to redshirt, that wasn't something I was opposed to. I knew the costs and I knew the benefits and I was ready to take things in stride so I could one day contribute to the team," Conley said. "But when my number was called and I was able to go on the field, I had been practicing in such a way that I really didn't have to get caught up. It was sort of 'OK, now you're traveling, here's your opportunity.'"
A 17-yard catch last week against Tennessee only helped his confidence grow.
"I guess I have surprised myself. I'm a person who always wants to improve, I know there's a lot of things in my game I need to work on but that game experience and game reps really alerts you to SEC speed and that's something that is a lot different from practicing," he said. "But I also surprise myself that when I get out there I feel faster, I feel better, when I'm on the field with the adrenalin and the ability, it just comes out. I've been blessed to perform.
Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]