Bailey set to try linebacker

Redshirt freshman will play outside linebacker in spring practice, offering speed and coverage skills to defend proliferation of spread offenses.

For once, the Internet speculation was right.

Redshirt freshman Dion Bailey confirmed he would move to linebacker from safety during spring practice, a change that had been a message board staple for the better part of two months.

"I'll still play safety, but I am going to try outside linebacker, SAM backer in our defense, because the completion we play nowadays is more spread," Bailey said Wednesday after a conditioning and throwing session at Howard Jones Field. "They (the coaches) want to experiment with me, so that's what I'll be doing this spring."

The decision to move Bailey would address several issues for the USC defense. The Trojans must replace both starting outside linebackers, with Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan having graduated.

With projected starting middle linebacker Devon Kennard undergoing hip surgery last December, Chris Galippo is expected to man that spot in spring practice, further taxing the limited depth at that position.

"I have a great opportunity to compete this spring," Bailey said. "There's just three of us (at strongside linebacker). The skill set I have, I feel like I'm ready to compete."

USC struggled against spread offenses last season and Bailey would offer a mix of speed and coverage skills.

"There's not really any I-back formation we'll play against, so they are trying to get people in there that can cover," Bailey said. "When it comes to covering, I was a DB first, so I'll have an advantage when it comes to that. I can run all across the field. People aren't used to seeing when a linebacker steps out on a receiver that he can pretty much cover him like a DB. I'm excited about that."

Those skills brought Bailey to USC from Lakewood as part of the Class of 2010 to play in the secondary, but a logjam at safety encouraged the position switch.

T.J. McDonald is an emerging star at free safety, one of the bright spots in the shaky Trojan back seven. Marshall Jones, Jawanza Starling, Tony Burnett and Demetrius Wright could all end up competing for the other spot in the starting lineup.

The numbers game made the decision by Bailey that much easier.

"They asked if I was interested in it. I told them whatever it takes to get on the field faster, I'm willing to try it," Bailey said.

The biggest challenge for Bailey right now is developing his body to handle the wear and tear that comes with playing linebacker. Currently weighing in at 202 pounds, coaches want him to put on five pounds by the start of spring and get up to 210 by the fall.

"Got to put on some weight so when I get in the trenches, I can shed guards and everything like that," Bailey said. Top Stories