With four months until the season kicks off, we are right in the middle of the dead zone. On the plus side, we have plenty of time to break down those players committed to Florida, those players who might commit to Florida, and those players we want to commit to Florida.
Name: Willie Bailey
Weight: 165 (Most weights are from before the recruit’s junior season. They are rarely updated after that. Many recruits add bulk during their senior years making these numbers inaccurate.)
High School: Hallandale (Hallandale, FL)
Status: Verbally committed to Florida
Other Schools in Play: Miami
The first thing you will notice from the video is that it lists Bailey at 6’2", 185, so, like I alluded to above, weights can change (heights too).
Bailey’s biggest strength is his speed. He is a track star who dropped his commitment to Miami and chose Florida because of the opportunities presented to him in that sport. What is perhaps most impressive about his speed is how effortless he looks on long runs. The first clip in the video is of him returning a kick the distance. Once he gets to the sidelines, it looks like he is out for a Sunday jog. This comes in handy as Bailey is not nearly as winded as someone else might be after sprinting 100 yards. That speed also comes in handy during pursuit. At the 1:03 mark, Bailey chases down a ball carrier and is able to strip the ball. He is not someone who will be beaten easily. Bailey has the ability to keep up with the offensive players he covers, but also the closing speed to catch up to those he does not. Although he is typically mentioned as a cornerback, this brings up memories of Gator-great Reggie Nelson. One of Nelson’s many talents was his ability to cover the entire field. Bailey possesses a similar talent, which makes the safety position an intriguing thought for him.
Although Bailey is a solid hitter, his abilities as a smart tackler seem to be his stronger asset. Throughout the video, we see Bailey rarely beaten on a move by the ball carrier. He keeps his head toward the opposing player and seems to anticipate the move they might make. Knowing he is not the biggest (frame-wise) player on the field, Bailey is good at taking out the runner’s legs and not allowing the ball carrier to get around him. He always keeps the opposing player in front of him. This is a good attribute and something that can serve him well at the next level as well, but facing quicker, larger players in college could provide a bit of a problem. Not that Bailey will not succeed, but leg tackles definitely do not work on everyone. There will be a time that he will have to stand up and muscle someone to the ground, which is where the next observation comes into play.
Bailey appears to be one of the taller players on the field in most of the clips. While that is the case, he might not always be the biggest. Bailey needs to bulk up for SEC play and I, for one, hope the video is more accurate than the recruiting services and that he is truly at 185 already. Bailey’s frame gives him the opportunity to add more bulk without sacrificing his speed. If Bailey can play with his current speed, but closer to 195 (or even 200), he could develop into a very dangerous defender. Very few are going to be able to throw over him; he just needs to make sure bigger offensive players do not take advantage of their strength by constantly running right at him.
As with many young players in a college system, Bailey’s impact may be felt on special teams early. He has the speed to provide depth on kick returns, but his height may leave him open to taking a pounding. Starting at the 0:38 mark, Bailey blocks three-straight punts by coming from the outside straight to the punter. It is hard to tell how much of this is him or the fact that the opposing blockers seem to completely ignore him on all three punts, but his speed could be a definite asset when it comes to kick blocking. Again, height does not hurt here either.
Bailey is currently committed to the Gators and we have to hope he keeps it that way. When he dropped Miami, they did not drop him. Although he has given his verbal, the Hurricanes will most likely be in this race until the very end. The best would be to hope for Bailey to enroll early so the wait is long, but not excruciatingly long.