It was hardly a relaxing Thanksgiving break for junior college defensive end Drew Bailey (Pearl River C.C./Hattiesburg, Miss.). The 6-foot-5, 275-pounder decided to knock out two of his four official visits in a one-week span, giving him little time to spend with his mother in Georgia or his father in Florida.
"I only got to spend two days with my family, then I had to go up to N.C. State," said Bailey, who has offers from Maryland, N.C. State, Fresno State, Purdue, Georgia State, Southern Miss and Louisiana-Lafayette. "Then I went to my dad’s place for one day after N.C. State, and then I had to go to Fresno State right after that. So, man, I’ve just been catching up on some sleep. I’ve been traveling all over, all around the county. But, no question, it’s worth it."
Considering Bailey really didn't receive much recruiting attention coming out of Banneker High in College Park, Ga., and then bounced around junior colleges in Michigan (Grand Rapids) and Mississippi (Mississippi Gulf Coast and Pearl River), the Georgia native wasn't about to let a little jet lag drag him down.
First, he took the relatively short drive from his mother's home in Georgia to Raleigh, N.C., Nov. 24 and stayed the next 48 hours at N.C. State.
"N.C. State was very nice. Coach Ryan [Nielsen] was a very energetic coach, and I like him a lot. The head coach, Coach D [Dave Doren], me and him we had a long talk about my family and my dad, and I can tell he's a caring man," Bailey said. "[Doren is] going to see my dad down in Florida [Dec. 2], so that's pretty cool. Plus their D-line coach, Coach Ryan [Nielsen], is coming in [Dec. 2] to see me here.
"But, overall, it's a very nice city, and I really enjoyed it here. Anything compared to a Mississippi JUCO is heaven, to tell you the truth (laughs)."
Of the schools he's considering, State is the closest to both his mother and father. He said Raleigh is about a two-hour drive from both Georgia and Florida.
Not that it matters much to Bailey.
"Yes, N.C. State is close, but that doesn't really mean much," he said. "Just think, I’ve lived in Mississippi, Georgia, Michigan, Florida – all over the place. And I have family all over the place -- not just in Georgia and Florida. So location just isn't a big deal for me."
Which is why Bailey decided to trek out to the West Coast less than three days later to see Fresno State. The Bulldogs are the lone non-power conference school the big defensive end is considering, though that doesn't seem to bother him.
"Football is football. No matter where you are or what level you’re at, you line up and put your hand in the dirt," Bailey said. "It could be on Jupiter for all I care. I see it as, if you have a spot for me, and if I come in and work hard and earn the [starting] spot, I’m interested in you. And Fresno, they have a guy leaving off their line, and I could come right in and take his spot at defensive end.
"Now, Fresno might not be a Florida State or an Alabama, but it’s an opportunity. And next year they play Ole Miss, so you’re going to get your time to show out -- just like Khalil Mack when he was at Buffalo. He played against Georgia, schools like that, and then he was a first-round pick. So it can happen for me."
As for what he thought of Fresno, Bailey came away impressed. Even though it was the day after Thanksgiving and he had spent less than 24 hours with his father in Florida.
"I woke up real early for an 8 a.m. flight, and then when got there and ate, it 9:30 in the morning. I was so tired because I was on 12 o’clock our time [on the East Coast]," Bailey said. "So I was beat. But it was definitely a great place. It was very different out there, a very pretty and quiet city. Fresno is a very, very nice place. And the coaches were so nice and they definitely want me there. It's definitely an option for me."
Next up for the Pearl River product is an official visit to College Park, Md., Dec. 5-7. Bailey said Terps defensive line coach Chad Wilt already stopped by to visit him Nov. 30, and passed along that the UMD staff is eager to meet the JUCO edge rusher in person.
"Coach Wilt and me, we had a good talk. He was just comparing the schools, Maryland and where I am now at Pearl River. He was talking about the experience at Maryland, and how it can better me as a person and an athlete," Bailey said. "Coach Wilt, he was big on school and academics; he said that's big at Maryland.
"Then he was telling me how he could help me develop as a defensive lineman. He said they have guys leaving, and I could play right away. He’s not guaranteeing a starting spot, but he was saying how, if I worked, I could step right in there."
Bailey said he's looking forward to meeting head coach Randy Edsall and the rest of the staff. He also wants to chat up the current Terps, find out what life is like on campus and talk to several academic advisors.
"I’m looking forward to meeting Coach Edsall and asking him questions. I’m the type that asks 100 questions about everything, so I’m really looking forward to talking to him," Bailey said. "And then just meeting the players, finding out where I’ll be living, talking to the academic advisor about my major.
"That’s actually a big plus for Maryland. I want to major in mass communications and get into sports writing or broadcasting, and I know Maryland has an awesome program for that. Like right around Washington, D.C., there’s so many opportunities for me [in that field]. Coach Wilt, he was telling me about the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and all these different opportunities right around Maryland."
Evidently there's more Maryland has going for it beyond Wilt and its communications program. Apparently Bailey's father already knows UMD assistant Keenan McCardell and is set to meet with him and Edsall Dec. 2.
"That's what I've been told. Coach Edsall is coming to see my dad in Florida, and I think Coach McCardell is already in the Jacksonville area, because he was at the Jaguars game or something," Bailey said. "So I'm eager to hear what my dad says about that."
Last but not least, Bailey will take his final official to Louisville Dec. 12-14. He does not currently hold a Cardinals offer but believes one could materialize following the trip.
"I have talked to the coaches from Louisville, and I’ll take my visit and see how everything is there," Bailey said. "I’m thinking they probably will offer, and if they do, that’s a school I’m going to take a hard look at. That’s a good program they have up there."
Bailey said he "doubts" he'll have a chance to see his most recent suitor, Purdue, noting how the Boilermakers entered the picture too late.
Following his Louisville visit, Bailey plans to sit down with his family and coaches and select his school. He is set to sign Dec. 18 and will enroll in a four-year college in January.
"Basically I want to find the place where I have the best bond with my coach and with the team," Bailey said. "For me, it's about finding a place where there’s a real family feel. One day I might need to sit down with my coach and talk about things, so I want to find those coaches that I can really relate to and trust."
As of right now, Bailey said he's unsure if he's found that kind of staff yet. He said he'll know for sure following his next two officials.
"I don’t really have a top five or anything like that right now. I’m just going about my business and I’ll make my decision after my visits," Bailey said. "I honestly don’t have a top school right now. I'm still thinking things through."
Bailey Eager For UMD Official, Updates Status
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