Bailey Excited For Opener
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – For some football players, it takes a redshirt year to learn the playbook and gain the strength and experience necessary to compete at the collegiate level.
It certainly helped standout wide receiver Stedman Bailey develop and become the player he is today, anyway. Breaking onto the scene a year ago, the former high school teammate of Geno Smith, Ivan McCartney and Josh Taylor quickly became one of West Virginia’s most reliable pass catchers during a season that saw him record 24 receptions for 317 yards and four touchdowns.
This success doesn’t mean that he’s taking things easier, though.
“We’ve been putting in a lot of hard work during the offseason, and I’ve been working pretty hard,” he said. “I’ve become one of those household names here. It puts pressure on me, but I’m going to rise to the occasion.”
Along with receiver Tavon Austin, Bailey has already solidified his place in Holgorsen’s offense. And knowing the track record Holgorsen has for turning good players into great players only increases Bailey’s desire to improve upon last year’s stats.
“I’m actually pretty excited about that too,” he said. “I always look up (Justin) Blackmon’s numbers and think that’s pretty amazing and being that we’re in this offense now I know that I have the chance to do something like that also. I want to give it my all.”
Last year, Bailey’s first career receptions came against Marshall. He set season-high marks for himself in Huntington, catching five passes for 72 yards with a long of 30.
So it’s a little bit like fate that the beginning of what’s shaping up to be a promising year for Bailey and the Mountaineers starts with that same in-state rival.
Criticized for not bringing its characteristic intensity into last year’s game, the team now knows more than ever that no opponent should be taken lightly, or overlooked.
Bailey admitted that he didn’t think things were going to end well for the Old Gold and Blue as the clock wound down.
“There were certain parts of the game where I thought we were down and out and we were about to be the ones to take the first ‘L’ to Marshall,” he said. “We were able to come back in the fourth quarter and regroup and come back for the win.”
The lesson learned?
“When Marshall comes in to play us they prepare for us like it’s a bowl game,” he explained. “There’s a lot of anticipation coming into this game, this is a big game and a big rivalry. I think they probably play us harder than they play anyone else on their schedule.
“I think we took those guys a little bit lightly last year, but we have all of the respect for them.”
Also making things difficult was the presence of Doc Holliday on the opposite sidelines. Familiar with the West Virginia offense, Bailey asserts that Holliday was able to pick out certain things based on the line-ups and formations on the field.
But this year, the situation is completely new. While Holgorsen’s talent for coaching has been on display and proven at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State, nobody’s quite sure at this point exactly what Sunday’s game will look like.
But if Bailey has anything to say about it, he’ll be the one making plays.
“As far as running routes and catching balls and breaking coverages, that’s all part of being a big playmaker,” he elaborated. “I’ve pretty much been working on every part of my game to be that guy.”
When Holgorsen first came into the program in January, the offense knew it was learning from a mastermind. And according to Bailey, it just keeps getting better.
“When I first heard that Holgorsen was coming here, I was already excited. I know he’s been doing great things in the past,” he said.
“This offense has the opportunity to do big things this year. We have all of the guys and all of the talent to get the job done and I’m really excited about this season.”
Mountaineer Nation is, too.
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