Since 1985, the AJC’s Super 11 team has transformed into one of the nation’s most elite lists, consisting of the best 11 high school football players from the talent-loaded state of Georgia. Over the next few weeks, we’ll go over the top candidates for this year’s AJC Super 11, which will be released on Aug. 15)
The AJC Super 11 candidate: East Hall DE Sterling Bailey
The skinny: The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Bailey is one of the state’s best high school players that no one outside of the Gainesville area really knows about — other than college recruiters. Last year as a junior, Bailey had 68 tackles, 22 tackles for losses, 17 QB hurries and 5 sacks.
Colleges: Bailey bought in to UGA’s “Dream Team” concept, committing to the Bulldogs among nearly 30 offers. He says he is working on many of the state’s other top players to also sign with UGA. As with all elite prospects, many schools, including Alabama and Mississippi, are continuing to recruit Bailey, who confirmed to the AJC that he is “100-percent committed to Georgia.”
They said it: “I committed to Georgia at defensive end, but they want me at linebacker when I get there. I had went to Mark Richt Camp, and that was the first time I tried outside linebacker. Coach [Mark Richt] and [defensive coordinator Todd Grantham] said they loved that position for me … that not only can I jam up the tight end, but also drop back in coverage. They said I was the all-around player that they were looking for in an outside linebacker.” — Sterling Bailey
The lowdown: Bailey moves as well as any big guy in high school. He has flown under the radar because he plays at East Hall, which has posted 1-9 records in each of the last three seasons. Bailey is an one-man wrecking machine on defense. Last year, he tackled a Lumpkin County player so hard that the player’s helmet was cracked down the middle. East Hall’s coaches do a good job of moving Bailey around along the defensive front, making it tougher for offensive blockers to gang up on him. They will do it again this year, along with letting him see some spot duty at OLB. Bailey overpowers most offensive lineman with the basic “bull rush” but also has enough speed to beat the tackles around the corner into the offensive backfield. What really impresses me the most about Bailey is his hustle. Unlike many high school players who quit and turn into fans/observers after the play has passed them, Bailey will continue to pursuit from behind. It leads to some “kill shots” by Bailey when the ball-carriers cut back or dance around to avoid East Hall’s defensive backs.
If it was completely my vote: I think Bailey is a “freak athlete” and one of the state’s best overall defenders. You rarely see kids this big at this age moves this well. For most in his situation, they simply take up space on the field in high school and only start to tap into their potential after 2-3 years in college. Not Bailey, it’s there now, or was last year. I would love to see Sterling Bailey match up with Colquitt County OT Xzavier Ward in a game — two giants with uncanny athleticism. Back to Bailey: He has enough size and raw athleticism to play DE, DT, OLB, OT or OG in college. If he plays OLB, he will need to make improvements in his hip flexibility for pass coverage, etc. The more film I watch of Bailey, the more I like him. I’m thinking when it’s all said and done, Bailey will be one of the top 2-3 recruits in UGA’s 2011 class, regardless of who they already have committed or will lure down the road. Bailey is truly something special.
Note: The AJC’s Super 11 team consists of the state’s top 11 senior football players, and not college prospects. It is selected by AJC staff members in a partnership with our friends from GHSFD, based on observing the player either in person or on film. A very important part of the process is getting recommendations and feedback from high school coaches from around the state, along with running the names by a few college coaches. It’s an imperfect process, but we do our best. The AJC’s 2010 Super 11 team will be released next month.