Sean Bailey is Examining Options

If you have not been paying attention to the recruitment of wide receiver Sean Bailey from Georgia, then you are missing the story of Stanford's push for the #12 wideout in the country. Though Sean's decision should go all the way to January or February, he has a lot of schools tugging at him right now, which leaves an important evaluation process for him and his father.

This past weekend elite receiver recruit Sean Bailey and his father Stacey Bailey, the former San Jose State and Atlanta Falcon receiving great, took an unofficial visit to Tennessee. That sounds like bad news for Stanford and Stanford fans, as the Card already have enough of a fight on their hands for Sean, duking it out against Georgia and Florida State. But alas, Tennessee did itself no favors that day, with a torrential downpour and a game performance against the Gators that was also all wet.

"It was a bad day all around," says Stacey Bailey. "We got rained on pretty good, and Tennessee did not play a good game. We have been up there [to Tennessee] a couple times before, and we really were going up just to watch this game."

The elder Bailey says that the Vols were not in his son's top five schools prior to the visit, and you can bet they did not pick up any ground after that Saturday letdown. Stacey says they still probably sit just outside Sean's top five, maybe in his top seven. On that note, I asked what Sean's top list looks like today, and his father reported back that time has not changed what Sean last told me during the summer: his top three schools are Stanford, Georgia and Florida State. Within those three, there is no pecking order... or at least none that the Baileys will offer up today.

But that doesn't mean a little digging can't shed light on how the schools look differently in the Baileys' eyes. There are two phases of work to this end, and the two partitions are being handled primarily by father and son. Stacey Bailey is examining official depth charts, news clippings, media guides and game footage of the respective teams to glean a heightened understanding of how the WR position lays out for his son. The examination seeks to look at the entire receiving corps depth, then the breakdown by class, and finally the numbers and quality of the receivers being recruited along with Sean right now. In short, Sean's father is conducting as thorough an examination of the receiving depth landscape as you can possibly imagine. "It comes down to who needs him the most," says the elder Bailey. "Sean wants to play early."

The second half of the evaluation process entails looking at the 'fit' of the school, including the coaches, teammates, student body and campus. That end of the deal is what Sean has to examine for himself, and will come when he takes his official visits this coming winter.

Returning to his father's work, how does Stacey see the receiver landscape at Sean's top three schools?

"Florida State is the heaviest right now - they are really stocked with receivers. Stanford is next, though Teyo [Johnson] is likely to leave early and there were no receivers in this last class. Georgia is the team he feels he could fit in and play right away. Their best receiver is young, but like Teyo he could leave early," summarizes Sean's father.

Though Stacey follows up with an incredibly perceptive point which colors Stanford a little differently from other schools. The Baileys are acutely aware of the unique hurdles that Stanford's admissions process present, which they are working on currently. But as it pertains to the assessment of future receiving depth, Stacey recognizes that Stanford is uniquely handicapped at being unable to bring in a horde of stud receivers at the drop of a hat with these admissions restrictions. A Georgia or a Florida State can bring in any number of receivers in this class or the next, while Stanford has some inherent barriers to bringing in more than one or two really elite receivers in any year. "Stanford as an institution is hard to get into," the father notes, "which is a positive. Not just anybody can come in and challenge his job."

To that end, Stacey says that his look at the recruiting jobs by these three schools presents telling numbers. Both UGA and FSU look to be bringing in 4-5 receivers each, and Stacey accentuates just how aggressively he sees the Seminoles recruiting today. "They are looking at a lot of wide receivers, probably all of the top receivers in the nations," he says. He sees Stanford going after three or four top wideouts, but understands that the actual class would likely be just one or two, once you figure all factors and casualties.

Beyond the numbers, which favor Georgia and Stanford right now, Stacey says that there is no question that Georgia is doing the most amazing and intense job of recruiting his son. He cites not just the advantages that the proximity to Athens, GA present, but also the intense personal involvement of head coach Mark Richt. And you may remember from my past writings on Sean Bailey that he has held Richt in near-idol status for years, going back to his days as offensive coordinator at Florida State. Personal involvement from someone so revered - well, that's very tough to beat.

But Stacey Bailey says that this is where the role that he and his wife as parents steps in. "As a 17-year old kid, to be recruited by somebody you are very fond of - that has a big effect," dad says. "But our role is to help him understand the difference between recruiting talk and straight talk. I know - I've been through it at every level. When you get to the next level, you have to start from scratch and all that hype is gone."

Two more factors to consider for Sean Bailey are education and distance, with varying levels of importance. Stacey says that education is "very important" to Sean and the whole family in this decision, and they all hold Stanford up at a very high level as a result. "We have told [Sean] our feelings since Stanford offered," says Stacey of himself and his wife. "We explained the importance of the academics, but we found out that he already knew and grasped it."

As to distance, it is somewhat of a wild card, though Sean's father says that there is a chance it could hold out as nothing more than a tiebreaker. "I don't foresee exactly how it will come into play, though we are all for his going away for the academics. Distance may only come into play if everything else rates exactly the same between the schools," explains Stacey.

Sean and his high school team are having a rough start to the season, with only a 1-3 record to show for three very hard fought and closely contested games. Part of the early difficulty is being found on offense, where Milton is making dramatic changes in its philosophy and playcalling. Prior to this season, Stacey Bailey estimates that Milton ran the ball at a 80:20 ratio relative to the pass. The offensive line depth and talent is not available this year, though, and with Stacey more heavily involved in the construction of the offense, Milton is spreading the field more with four-wide sets and now passing the ball at a 80:20 ratio relative to the run. That's a big change from an offense that was running the wing-T last fall.

"Things will take time for everyone to get acclimated," says Stacey of the offensive changes. His son, though, is making great progress and is rapidly adapting to the new aerial attack, improving his confidence and aggressiveness with each game.

Through for games this season, Sean Bailey has recorded four receiving games past the century mark, including seven touchdowns on offense and two more scores on punt returns. His four games in order have produced: 8 catches for 156 yards, 10 catches for 165 yards, 4 catches for 105 yards (in less than one half of play in a blowout win), and 11 catches for 163 yards. Pretty darned good stuff from a receiver earning every bit of his elite national reputation.

One final note: Stacey Bailey says that Sean is nearing completion of his Stanford application, perhaps just a week away from being able to mail it in. The essays are taking shape and just one more teacher recommendation remains.

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