New leader in the clubhouse for JaQuan Bailey.
An official visit to Tennessee opened the eyes of the Scout No. 14 defensive end in the Sunshine State and thrust the Volunteers to the top of the pack of pursuers.
“Knoxville, it’s been a pleasure to be here,” Bailey said. “It really felt like home. I enjoyed every second of it from the first time I walked down (the terminal) to come get in the SUV until just now. The coaching staff, they kind of acted like my high school coaches as a family, almost like father figures, like people to look up to.”
The shock-factor about Big Orange Country for Bailey was the way current players are treated around town.
“Just the atmosphere,” said Bailey, who was once a Florida commit. “Everybody loves the college team. They are like the local celebrities. People was treating them like they was LeBron James or Stephen Curry walking into the building or something.”
The Team 120 roster opened its arms to the the Scout three-star prospect from Jacksonville, Florida.
“Just getting to know the players was pretty amazing,” Bailey said. “All of them are pretty humble. All of them are some good dudes. All of them told me a lot about the city. They were saying that Knoxville loves their players. It’s true. My hosts were (middle linebacker) Kenny Bynum and (outside linebacker) Jalen (Reeves-Maybin). Me and Jalen talked for about 2 hours last night (Saturday).”
Reeves-Maybin watched film on Bailey before spending time with him and was impressed immediately: “After the first play, he was like, ‘all right.’” Reeves-Maybin’s demeanor with Vol Nation impressed Bailey.
“I kind of want to be part of something like that where everybody is a family and there’s not a whole bunch of individuals,” Bailey said.
The 6-foot-2 ½, 245-pounder is from the same William M. Raines (Fla.) High School as Bynum.
“Kenny Bynum was telling me that it’s a great place to be education-wise,” Bailey said. “They’re going to offer me the best and they’re going to look out after me after football as in you’ll always have a good-paying job.”
The time on Rocky Top left the D-end so interested, he almost pulled the trigger.
“I was about to commit, but I’m going to wait until signing day,” Bailey said. “I’m going to take the rest of my official visits and then I’m going to make my decision on signing day.
“Just the coaching staff, just Knoxville as a place. I can see myself living here. The atmosphere was amazing. It was just a great place just to be. I can see myself staying for the next 3-4 or even 5 years.
“After I spoke with my momma, I promised her that I was going to make my decision in front of my classmates and in front of my high school teachers and community.
“I’m going to still keep an open mind but after this weekend this is going to be hard to beat. Man, it was just amazing. I’ll tell you that this was one of the best weekends of my life here.”
The farmland that exists between Blount County and Knoxville isn’t the most enticing for kids from out of state hoping to have a blast while they’re in town. It’s not until they cross bridges and see the skyline before they realize what Rocky Top has to offer.
“I actually thought this was going to be boring cause Tennessee doesn’t have really nothin’ to offer as in entertainment,” Bailey said. “But the athletic dorms, after spending time with the coaching staff and a couple players, it was pretty cool.”
An official visit is scheduled to Virginia Tech with a midweek trip to North Carolina also being a possibility. On the Jan. 29 weekend, Bailey and his twin brother Joshua Bailey will fly to Iowa State on an official. Some have wondered if they are a package deal.
“Um, we’ll see on signing day,” JaQuan Bailey said. “It’s really up to me but then again I really don’t care for it but then again I do because of out of sakes for my mother. I would say Tennessee is definitely No. 1 right now.
“(Tennessee) coach (Butch) Jones, (linebackers) coach (Tommy) Thigpen, (defensive line) coach Strip (Steve Stripling)….me and (defensive coordinator) Bob Shoop are really close. We basically ate together every night and every meal. We talked about football, we talked about Reggie White, we talked about Danté Fower, we talked about (Curt Maggitt) and when he got hurt he actually found out that he was actually the best player last year on Tennessee’s defense.”