Developing Duo

For many offensive duos, it takes time to develop the chemistry to make the big plays. The practice and repetition time required to get two players thinking the same way is daunting, to say the least.

For one Mountaineer, duo, however, much of that work has already been accomplished. Quarterback Geno Smith and wide receiver Stedman Bailey developed that rapport during their high school days, and are now going on six years together on the field.

Bailey has been working alongside Smith on the field since the two attended Miramar High School together. The quarterback and receiver combo have been working together to pull out the big plays in crucial positions for many years. Bailey recalls the two making some critical plays during important playoff victories while playing with a less than stellar defense.

"There's been many times in the past, dating back to high school, that Eugene would throw my way because he knows that I would make the catch," said Bailey. "That's just something that we want to continue doing. It was a crucial fourth quarter and I'm always looking to make a play so I guess that's why they looked at me." The redshirt freshman receiver got thrust into the middle of the Mountaineer offense when he was called upon late in the fourth quarter during one of West Virginia's drives late in the Marshall game. Bailey finished the game with five receptions for a total of 72 yards but the highlight of his night came during the fourth quarter, when he dame up with a diving thirty-yard reception that put WVU in point-blank scoring range at the Herd's eight-yard line.

"[The first catch] kind of boosted my confidence," said Bailey. "I was kind of nervous but once I got my first catch I was able to gain my confidence and be myself. I was in my comfort zone. Sometimes [after a big play], I kind of look at the jumbotron to see the replay and that feels good."

If Bailey watched that thirty-yarder, he saw a great example of the chemistry he and Smith have built over the years. The pass had to be thrown at ground level, because anything higher would have been deflected or intercepted by Herd defenders. Smith recognized that, and Bailey knew it too – he was already moving low for the gram when he entered the narrow window between three Marshall defenders in the area.

From there, Bailey let his good hands do the work. He has demonstrated the ability to come up with tough catches throughout fall camp, and he didn't disappoint in this instance either, He got his hands low and cradled the ball to produce the huge gain. Bailey credits not only his ability for his big catch of the night but also his chemistry with Smith.

"[Our chemistry] has carried over to help us tremendously in our game," said Bailey. "He just knows where I'm at on the field and I kind of know what he's thinking most of the time. I still have to know my plays, know everything I am supposed to do, know my assignments. The chemistry that we have helps us out. It puts us over the edge a little bit."

While this play wasn't a freelance one, it's not hard to see how the tie between the two allowed the play to unfold as it did – and why it might make Smith just a bit more confident in throwing the ball in Bailey's direction. Each is zoned in on what the other is seeing from the opposite perspective, and thus each might be a bit better prepared to execute when the pressure is on, as it was in the waning minutes of the Marshall game.

"We go over a two minute offense in practice where we all try and be on the same page," explained Bailey. "We practice that a lot. It was just a matter of executing. We were all on the same page."

While West Virginia is stocked with the most talented group of receivers it has had in several seasons, Bailey seems to have set himself a step or two above the pack, due to his undeniable bond with Smith as well as his ability to make big plays when called upon. While Smith certainly won't be ignoring Jock Sanders, Tavon Austin or J.D. Woods in passing situations, the security blanket Bailey provides is definitely one that Smith will take advantage of.

Bailey isn't going to rely just on his hometown companion to be successful, however.

"As far as my performance [against Marshall] I was pretty satisfied," said Bailey. "I was able to step up and make a few big plays. I still feel like there is room for improvement. I still feel like there are some areas that I could work on in my game to better myself but overall I think I did pretty good. I knew that I could step up and make big plays, but actually going out and doing it in the time that we needed it made me know that it was something that I could do. Coach Galloway trusts me more. He told me after the game that I grew up."

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