Column: Bailey Impresses Again

Much of the talk of West Virginia's new, explosive offense has been focused around quarterback Geno Smith and rightly so.

Smith is on track to just obliterate many school passing records in head coach Dana Holgorsen's offense. Yet, on Saturday against Connecticut, Smith wasn't himself.

The junior signal caller didn't hit receivers like he did against Maryland. He didn't have the accuracy on long balls like he did against LSU.

It just wasn't his best game (despite passing for 450 yards).

Smith's off game allowed one player to shine in the Mountaineers' 43-16 victory over the UConn. That was sophomore wide receiver Stedman Bailey.

Bailey, West Virginia's soft-handed receiver, finished the game with seven catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns in the win.

It has his 84-yard score that made the difference in the game, however, as it started a run of 33 unanswered points for the Mountaineers.

"I just have in my mind that I have to go out and do what I need to do to get my team the win," Bailey said. "I don't necessarily say that I need to go for 100 yards. That just happens."

The truth is, Bailey has been the most consistent player on offense for the Mountaineers. He has made catches when needed and always seems to be in the right place.

Heading into the season. West Virginia's offensive coaches knew that inside receiver Tavon Austin would be a solid option in the passing game because of his break-away speed and shiftiness.

There was a discussion about who would be the next guy at receiver. Would it be Brad Starks or Ivan McCartney? Maybe even Ryan Nehlen or Tyler Urban who had a great spring.

Yet, it has been Bailey that has truly turned on the jets this year for WVU.

He is the first receiver in school history to have four straight 100-yard receiving games. He's made it easy, too, catching short passes and turning them into huge gains and catching long passes for huge games, too.

"He sees the game like a quarterback, and he continues to get better each game," Smith said.

Bailey knew he had it in him. And he's set goals for himself, too. He wants to have 1,000 yards receiving this season, something he's on pace to obliterate.

"Last year, (Oklahoma State wide receiver) Justin Blackmon was the only receiver with over 1,000 yards, but he had about 1,700 yards, which is amazing. I figured if I can't get 1,700, I could at least get 1,000 yards," said Bailey of playing in Holgorsen's offense. "I felt like it would be a breakout year for me."

And, wow was he right.

Through six games in 2011, Bailey has 34 catches for 634 yards and five touchdowns. He's on pace to have more than 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The record for receiving yards at WVU is 1,043 by David Saunders. It's likely two receivers could match that number this year, and Bailey is one of those players.

It doesn't look like he's about to stop improving, either.

"He's had gradual success from the spring. We saw some flashes in the spring, and then he's been the player for us at receiver that has just continued to develop," said wide receiver Daron Roberts. "He's starting to envision himself as a leader in that unit, and he's playing like it."


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