Sterling Bailey wants to be the next man up with the spring he‚Äôs had at defensive end.¬†
Bailey, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound defensive end from Gainesville, appeared in 12 games for the Bulldogs in 2013.
The East Hall High graduate started in nine of those games, finishing the season with 34 tackles and one sack. With the offseason defensive staff coaching changes, however, no player‚Äôs spot is safe as a new season approaches.¬†
‚ÄúIf you ain‚Äôt getting the job done, it‚Äôs the next man up, so everybody‚Äôs scared,‚Äù senior defensive end Toby Johnson said. ‚ÄúEverybody‚Äôs just flying around and trying to play hard as possible.‚Äù
Johnson is competing with Bailey for playing time, and he has been since he arrived in Athens last year.
The two players always just happen to end up battling for the same position.¬†
‚ÄúThey‚Äôve got me and him at end right now, so when we was at three technique, we were both at three technique, so I‚Äôm looking it Sterling like, ‚ÄòMan, I‚Äôve gotta beat him out (and) he‚Äôs gotta beat me out,‚Äô‚Äù Johnson said.¬†
That type of competition is just what Georgia had in mind when it hired first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
Bailey said that‚Äôs what the team needs if it plans on making major improvements to its defense.¬†
‚ÄúWe all go out there competing with each other and we‚Äôre also pushing each other, and in the long run that‚Äôs just going to help us out as a team as a whole,‚Äù Bailey said.¬†
Bailey considers this spring to be productive to say the least, which is saying something considering he received the team‚Äôs True Grit Award at the end of the 2013 spring. The name of that award alone says enough about Bailey‚Äôs work ethic.¬†
That award simply isn‚Äôt the pinnacle for Bailey, though.¬†
‚ÄúI want to be better than I was last year, really,‚Äù Bailey said.¬†
With the type of competition first-year defensive line coach Tracy Rocker is setting up, Bailey really has no choice but to get better if he wants to see consistent playing time in 2014.
‚ÄúCoach Rocker ain‚Äôt playing. He ain‚Äôt playing about that,‚Äù Johnson said. ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre going to come to compete (and) play hard every day. If not, it‚Äôs the next man up, so you‚Äôve got to push each other and help each other get better every day.‚Äù
Bailey has quickly taken to Rocker‚Äôs challenge.¬†
‚ÄúI‚Äôm really enjoying him, the coaching style (and) the level that he wants us to play at,‚Äù Bailey said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a high level, but I come out open-minded, coachable (and) try to achieve what he wants me to be.‚Äù
It‚Äôs safe to assume Rocker wants Bailey to play at a high level ‚Äî maybe even the level Rocker coached with the Tennessee Titans.¬†
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs very cool because he‚Äôs teaching us what it‚Äôs going to be at the next level and he‚Äôs setting an expectation for us, and I‚Äôm out there enjoying it and I‚Äôm taking everything he has to say; taking it in and just using it,‚Äù Bailey said.¬†
As the conclusion of Georgia‚Äôs spring practice nears, Bailey has a few things he plans to work on before the team returns to Athens for fall camp: hand placement, footwork, pad level and weight.
Bailey said he played the 2013 season at a weight of about 270, he‚Äôs now in the 285-290 range.¬†
He is taking the challenges of being an elite Southeastern Conference defensive lineman head on.¬†
‚ÄúThey got me playing at the defensive end position and it‚Äôs a lot to learn, but I‚Äôm going in and giving it my all,‚Äù Bailey said.¬†