When I last wrote about WR Sean Bailey from Alpharetta, Georgia, I plainly indicated that Stanford was in the position of a longshot. There was a deep-seated love of Florida State and Mark Richt (Georgia) that would just be too tough to beat 3000 miles away. That was bad news for Stanford fans regarding the #11 receiver in the country in this high school class, as rated by The Insiders recruiting writers.
Well, I have followed up with Sean to see how his recent trip out to the West Coast was for him, and am surprised at the answer. In short, Stanford has moved up to his top three schools, and Sean maintains that he has no leader among Stanford, Georgia and Florida State today. His visit to Stanford earlier this month made one heck of an impact on him.
"It made a big impression on me. They stressed how important academics are. Players graduate and are on top of things. They're all successful. I also liked the atmosphere a lot. The campus is great - wide open. The coaches and players were great, too."
He met with Chris Lewis, Teyo Johnson and JR Lemon, to name a few players. JR showed him around campus, and the two talked about coming from Atlanta out to Stanford.
"He said it was scary at first, but it was quickly great meeting people. It's like a family."
On the coaching staff, Sean spent time with both Buddy Teevens and David Kelly. Sean said that he has talked with Coach Kelly many times, going back to the days when he was at Georgia Tech and lived just a couple minutes from his house. The young receiver likes Buddy Teevens and the fact that he hails from Florida's wide-open offense.
Given how Sean has been a lifelong fan of the rival Seminoles, I asked if Florida ties would be an emotional drawback. Sean quickly dispelled that hitch, professing his love for the offenses of all three of the major Florida schools.
Along similar lines, I asked if his father's San Jose ties from the early 80's, when the rivalry with Stanford was at its peak, provides any emotional bias against Stanford. Sean replied that in fact his father has feelings much to the contrary.
"He loves Stanford. It would be his top choice. Though he wants me to make my own choice, since I am the one who has to live with my decision."
While on this West Coast swing, Sean and Stacey Bailey did check out San Jose State, but more from a vacation standpoint. Sean says that the Spartans are not a factor in his recruitment. The two other notable schools he checked out with an eye toward his college destination plans were UCLA and USC. Neither scored any points to put them in the running for his recruitment.
"They were nice campuses, but they didn't make a big impression on me at all."
Sean is not looking at any other major trips for some time, other than a one day visit to Clemson sometime this summer. And though Stanford is now in a leadership position in his top three, you shouldn't look for much recruiting movement with him for a while. Sean still plans on taking his recruitment into the winter. The plan is to narrow down a large school list to 8-10 schools by the time his high school senior season starts. Then narrow that list to 5 schools by the end of his season. At that point, he will take his five official visits, which will be crucial for his final decision.
An additional note is that Sean Bailey has his Stanford application in hand, and hopes to get it turned in within the next 2-3 weeks. When I asked Sean what negatives he sees for Stanford today, given this conversation full of Stanford positives. He said it is essentially the admissions process. He knows he can attend Georgia and Florida State today with no admissions process, while he has that unknown for Stanford. If that's the biggest biggest Stanford negative right now, it is essentially a non-factor given his long timeframe for a decision and shorter timeframe for submitting his admissions application.
My personal assessment is that Stanford has a long road to climb to overcome Sean's years of built-up emotional ties to Mark Richt (Georgia) and Florida State. Distance is also a real hurdle. The good news for the Stanford staff is that they have already made a quantum leap to pull even with these schools despite these disadvantages, and there are likely 6 more months yet to pass before Sean is looking to that final decision. A half year spent in his mind in a leadership position could make a real difference. This is getting more interesting than I thought it would for Stanford, frankly...