May 19, 2011

Bailey ready to go

GAINESVILLE - Although he'll be playing his college ball less than an hour from where he grew up, Sterling Bailey admits that he'll probably feel a pang or two of homesickness, before getting settled into life as a football freshman at Georgia.

But the former East Hall standout laughed that he won't be using the proximity to scoot home whenever the opportunity may arise.

Well, not quite.

"I promised my mom the only way I was coming home was to do laundry, so she can do my laundry," Bailey smiled. "I did ask her to bring some food to me. She said she and my aunt would do that, but I'm going to bring the laundry to her."

Bailey will arrive in Athens with the rest of Georgia's incoming class on June 6.

"I can't wait to get there," Bailey said. "I'm ready to get started."

The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder will be a bit behind his classmates from a physical standpoint when he does.

Bailey tore his labrum early during last year's football campaign, but held off on surgery through the end of basketball season after doctors told the U.S. Army All-American that he would not do any further damage to the injury.

He did finally undergo surgery in March and said he should be cleared to practice with his new teammates in early to mid-August.

"It's (the injury) getting better and better," said Bailey. "Once I get there, I'll just continue to do my rehab and Ron (team trainer Ron Courson) said they'd gradually work me back in with some running and working with the weights."

Bailey, who will wear No. 58, will room with Ray Drew, Christian Lemay and Chris Conley.

According to Bailey, the four became great friends during the recruiting process; something the quartet had some fun with along the way - much to LeMay's chagrin.

Although Bailey said he and Conley knew of Drew's commitment to Georgia some two months before it was officially announced, the former Thomas County-Central standout purposely kept LeMay out of the loop.

"Yeah, (Conley) and I knew for a long time that Ray was coming, but we didn't tell LeMay and he got scared," Bailey said. "Ray was always teasing him, but we didn't say anything."

Bailey said some of the Facebook exchanges between Drew and LeMay were legendary.

"Ray would tell him 'I can't cover your back when I'm on defense. I can't help you,'" Bailey laughed. "It was just funny."

Once he gets healthy, Bailey will look to see playing time, having been penciled in at Sam linebacker by defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

"They told me they're going to start me at Sam," Bailey said. "He (Grantham) just wants me to rush the passer."

It's a position he feels will suit him well.

That wasn't always the case. During the recruiting process, Bailey expressed some reservations about the 3-4. No longer.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how well I can adapt to it," Bailey said. "In college I'll be in a 3-4, but if I get to play defensive end on the next level, the 3-4 will still be a good way to prepare for it. I'm looking forward to it."

Bailey said he hopes to eventually get up to 270 pounds, although he'll need to lose a little "bad weight" before building up muscle mass to get to his desired mark.

He said the team nutritionist will be developing a new dietary package to help prevent cramps which bothered him throughout parts of last year.

"I haven't had any (cramps) in a while, but I called and they asked about my shoulder, and they told me they were going to work on a new package for me when I get there," said Bailey, who added he can't wait to further bond with the rest of his "Dream Team" teammates.

"There's going to be pressure, because as the Dream Team, people are going to expect us to come in and play up to everyone's expectations," Bailey said. "There will be some times when we do, but times when we don't. We just hope our fans will be behind us 100 percent."

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