Bailey weighs NFL while prepping for bowl
December, 11, 2013
By Johnny Curren | ESPN.com
For the players making up USC’s current roster, the 2013 campaign has been a roller coaster ride. Their season has been filled with emotional highs and lows, losing one head coach after another, from Lane Kiffin, to Ed Orgeron, to Clay Helton – who will ultimately give way to the newly hired Steve Sarkisian following the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl against Fresno State on Dec. 21.
For junior safety Dion Bailey, the sudden departure of Orgeron on Dec. 2, hit him particularly hard.
Nonetheless, when the Trojans began bowl practice, the team was in noticeably high spirits, thanks in part to the leadership of veterans like Bailey.
Chris Williams/Icon SMIDion Bailey leads the Trojans in interceptions this season.
“I’ve definitely taken on that role, but it’s been a lot easier with this group,” said Bailey, who has 58 tackles and a team-high five interceptions this fall. “This group has a lot better focus than a lot of teams that I’ve been a part of, so it wasn’t hard to refocus after all of the emotional whirlwinds we’ve been through the past couple of weeks. Everybody has been out here with a great attitude.”
And why not? After all, not only will the Trojans have a shot at 10 wins, but they will be doing so in a city that isn’t exactly dull by any stretch of the imagination.
“A lot of people think we’re not excited to go to Vegas, but who doesn’t want to go to Vegas?” Bailey said. “It’s going to be great. We’re going to have a blast doing what we do. We’re going to go out there and finish the season off right, and try to get this 10th win.”
But for Bailey, the game could prove to be especially significant. After a sturdy three-year starter with 219 career-tackles to his credit, he has the option to enter the NFL draft.
It’s a decision that Bailey revealed was still up in the air.
“I’m going to sit down and meet with my parents [Tuesday night], and we’re going to discuss some things, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have it figured out within this week,” Bailey said, “but I probably won’t announce anything until after the bowl game. I don’t want to be a distraction to the team and what we’re focused on.”
One person who is certain to have a special interest in the decision is Sarkisian. Bailey hasn’t had a chance to speak with the new head coach one-on-one just yet, but having been recruited by him as a standout Class of 2010 performer out of Lakewood (Calif.), he is familiar with him, and he’s optimistic about the new coach.
“That was my first scholarship offer -- to Washington -- out of high school, so I know Sark pretty well,” Bailey said. “He has a lot of energy, a lot of confidence, and he knows how to win. He’s been a part of our run here, so he definitely knows the formula.”
Despite the looming decision, Bailey has made a concerted effort not to lose sight of the task at hand. The Trojans will have their hands full in Vegas with a potent Fresno State offensive attack that is engineered by the nation’s No. 1 passer (4,866 yards) in Derek Carr.
“He’s a guy that has an unbelievable arm,” Bailey said. “It’s impressive the way he spins the ball, and he reads coverages. He finds the open man, and he’s having a great year, so we definitely have a great challenge ahead of us.”
But after having overcome so much already, it’s a test that Bailey and his teammates are more than eager to take on.
“To come away with a victory would be huge,” Bailey said. “I don’t think there’s a team in the history of college football that has been through as much as we’ve been through in my four years of being here. To go out here and get a big 10th win, we could walk out of that stadium with our heads held high and our chest poked out. It would be something to be very proud of.”
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35