April 4, 2013

Bailey getting his shot

Sterling Bailey from Anthony Dasher on Vimeo.

Like all of the members of Georgia's defensive line, this spring has represented a fresh start for redshirt Sterling Bailey.

Under new position coach Chris Wilson, the redshirt sophomore has been able to out under no preconceived notions as he tries to early significant playing time for the Bulldogs this fall.

Apparently, Bailey has made quite the impression.

As the Bulldogs get ready for Saturday's G-Day game at Sanford Stadium (1 .am., CSS), Bailey has proven to Wilson that he's finally ready to play a prominent role, if not start for the Bulldogs when they open their season Aug. 31 at Clemson.

No. Nothing is set in stone. Bailey is still battling Ray Drew for the starting job at right end, although of late he has received more of the reps with the first unit.

"Basically, whichever one of us is doing well that day, Coach Wilson is putting us in there with the ones," Bailey said. "That's been good for both of us because we've both been rotating."

The competition has been good for both players.

According to Bailey, Drew is looking as good as he ever has.

"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."

Senior defensive end Garrison Smith isn't concerned.

Although the Bulldogs lost the likes to 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 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.

"After my latest injury with my foot, my weight went down, so I spent the off-season getting back where to where I need to be," he said. "I'm almost there."

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."