GatorCountry.com continues its series previewing the players who will make up the 2012 Florida Gators football team this season.
Each day, we’ll count off another scholarship player until the Florida football season officially begins Sept. 1 against Bowling Green in The Swamp.
Today, we take a look at true freshman defensive back Willie Bailey.
Bailey enrolled at Florida in January after graduating high school and signing with the Gators in December on 2011. He’s still considered part of the Class of 2012.
Bailey also reported scholarship offers from Miami, North Carolina, South Florida and Tennessee out of Hallandale (Fla.) High. He originally pledged to Miami before switching to Florida. He was a three-star prospect by most national recruiting networks and ranked the No. 24 cornerback in the country by ESPN.
Was named to the Associated Press Class 5A All-State second team after helping the Chargers to a 6-4 record in 2011. Made his official visit to Florida in early December after verbally committing to the school on April 6, 2011.
At 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, Bailey is tall for a cornerback. He also has long arms, but needs to add muscle to his thin frame, something coach Will Muschamp pointed out during spring practices.
In high school, Bailey was laser timed running 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash. However, he appears to play quicker on the field and covers ground fairly well. He does have decent agility with a 34-inch vertical leap.
His cover skills are better than average in man coverage, but Bailey can improve there as well. He has shown the ability to close on a ball carrier and finish off plays with solid hits. That said, he’s expected to begin his college career at cornerback, but he could grow into a safety as he adds size and gains experience.
Perhaps Bailey’s best asset is his aggressiveness. He has a nose for the football and good instincts at reading plays. He displayed playmaking ability in high school. He blocked punts, caused fumbles and even returned a short field goal attempt for a touchdown, as shown on his video highlights below.
What to Expect
A redshirt season would serve Bailey well and give him time to bulk up and improve his technique. Plus, with the Gators’ depth in the secondary, he likely won’t be needed this season unless there are injuries or he wins a spot on special teams.
Heading into spring practices, he was listed on the second team at cornerback behind Louchiez Purifoy. However, starting cornerback Marcus Roberson was not cleared for contact during spring practices. With Roberson back, the Gators have four experienced cornerbacks — Purifoy, Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins are the others — on the field during fall camp. Jeremy Brown also will factor in when he returns on Sept. 1 after his broken right wrist required surgery last month. True freshman Brian Poole is another cornerback Bailey will have to beat out for playing time in the secondary.
Here are highlights from Bailey’s senior season at Hallandale: