Morgan Bailey has eaten squirrel. That piece of information alone, culled from the Georgia Tech media guide, would figure to create some sort of identity for the offensive tackle among Yellow Jackets fans.
However, for those who follow the team closely, he is mostly known as the offensive lineman who keeps getting hurt. Saturday’s game against Presbyterian College offers Bailey an opportunity to begin to carve a new status, presumably one that has more to do with knocking down defensive ends and less to do with rodent consumption.
“I definitely know the offense well enough to play,” Bailey said. “I’ve just got to get out there and do it now.”
Bailey is among a number of Tech players for whom Saturday presents the chance to get their hands around more playing time. Two others are defensive back Jamal Golden and inside linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days. In an environment that will be less frenzied than Monday’s season opener at Virginia Tech, they will both start their second consecutive games and can continue their improvement. Golden is starting at safety because of an injury to starting safety Fred Holton, while Hunt-Days is in the lineup because of starter Daniel Drummond’s suspension, which will conclude at halftime.
“In that respect, you hope that they would profit from the experience and that they’re different the next time out and successively so,” defensive coordinator Al Groh said. “What we have to promote to them towards is, Don’t be the same guy next week as you were last week, which happens to a lot of guys.”
Golden, a cornerback, was forced to learn and then play safety and slot cornerback in the last couple weeks as injuries thinned the secondary before the Hokies game. While hardly playing in the secondary last season as a freshman, he played every defensive snap in the loss to Virginia Tech.
“He handled ’em nicely,” said Groh, who offered a lukewarm “O.K.” assessment of Hunt-Days.
“He’s still learning and learning where to go and what to do,” inside linebackers coach Joe Speed said of Hunt-Days.
Golden, who was still sore on Wednesday, was eager for more playing time. Once the secondary returns to full health, playing opportunities may be scarce.
“Unfortunately, those guys went down with injuries, but, hey, that’s why I’ve been ready this whole time, just in case my opportunity came, and it’s come,” Golden said.
Bailey’s time at Tech has been a medley of maladies – a torn labrum, a pulled hamstring that he kept re-aggravating, and two concussions. In between injuries, he played three games last season as a redshirt freshman.
In August, he returned from the second concussion and suffered a high-ankle sprain in the same practice. This from a player who believes he missed one game to injury in a three-year varsity career at Loganville High.
“I just think I’m bad luck right now,” Bailey said. “When I’m out there, I think I’m doing good. I’ve just got to stay out there.”
When he stayed healthy for most of spring practice, he was promoted to the top of the depth chart at right tackle by the end of it. Bailey said his performance stemmed from being injury-free.
“I just worried about playing,” he said. “I felt good.”
He continued his form in fall camp until his concussion.
“When he was practicing, he was showing me he could be one of the better ones,” offensive line coach Mike Sewak said.
Bailey was listed as questionable on the Thursday injury report, but was cleared to play on Wednesday. He should play Saturday against the Blue Hose, particularly if the game turns into the runaway that many expect. As Sewak is eager to use a rotation at the tackle spots, playing time is available. Bailey has a platform to show he deserves to be in the mix.
“I’m hoping it’s just bad luck, “ Sewak said of Bailey’s run of injuries. “It’s time to get some good luck.”
In case you missed it.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog