Bailey's Versatility Fills Many Needs

Dion Bailey, the safety turned linebacker, hopes to be a jack of all trades in the coming Fall for USC.

Every football team needs one. Good teams need eleven of them. Like a tool belt, football defenses are expected to have a fix for all kinds of offenses. That's where safety turned linebacker Dion Bailey comes in. Bailey is the consummate Trojan handyman.

First, he lightens a heavy situation.

"If we're out in some workout and we're running more than we thought we'd be running I'll make jokes when everyone is all mad," Bailey said. "I'll say 'at least we're doing this rather than studying.'"

Second, he takes on unfamiliar roles.

While Bailey's Lakewood High modeled its defense after Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2, he said he'd never played a day of linebacker in his life before the Spring.

"It's been going well so far. I thought it wasn't going to work out for me at first, but I have a lot better understanding of the playbook," he said. "But the coaches told me for my 21st day [at the Spring game] that I looked good."

Third, the redshirt freshman already has a mature approach to football.

"I like to enjoy what I do I don't want what I do to become a job, because I don't want to work," Bailey said.

For a team riddled with sanctions and seriousness, his self-proclaimed goofy personality may be just what USC needs to loosen up.

"We lost three games in the last two minutes of the game," Bailey said. "We were throwing away games at the end [last] year. If we just finish the game we can be a much better team."

Maybe one guy's lightheartedness won't solve an entire team's problems but Bailey sure will try.

"He's a game changer," said star receiver and housemate Robert Woods. "He's a ball hawk and tries to get out to the ball, always tries to make a play."

Bailey knows he won't be the star linebacker, but said he hopes to "get around 30 plays a game," even if that includes time on special teams.

Last season illustrated the importance of a fix-it-man on special teams. In 2010, Woods had 2 huge kickoff returns for 122 yards. Bailey's hopes to show his handywork through similar opportunities.

"I'd like to play on special teams, punt block and things like that," he said. "My playmaking ability in high school, that's what opened a lot of coaches eyes."

Despite many repetitions at weak-side linebacker this Spring, the Scout 3-star recruit is listed as the split-starter under the strongside spot, along with Marquis Simmons.

Listed at 6'1, 195 pounds, Bailey is small for the linebacker position. So whether he becomes more of a playmaker as an upback on special teams, a defensive back in nickel situations, or even a starting linebacker, he hopes his versatility and speed will make up for his size.

"I've improved upon my physicality from the beginning of spring to the end but I can still improve on that," Bailey said.

Call him Mr. Fixit or a jack-of-all-trades, Bailey's upside will get him into the game somewhere. And his grateful mentality just might keep him there.

"Every person can't be a Trojan," he said. "You have to have this certain mentality, for me to have this chance I'm honored. It means everything."


Dion Bailey will add depth at linebacker in 2011. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)


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