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Football Recruiting Report
Wednesday, February 24, 2016

By Sammy Batten

SEC aura helped lure Bailey to ECU

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

Recruiting Class of 2016 Thumbnail Sketches...

Sean Bailey's earliest ambition was to become a firefighter like his father, uncle and grandfather before him. But by middle school Bailey changed his mind and opted for another family profession.

“I wanted to be a fireman until middle school when I realized football might be a better thing for me,'' Bailey said last week.

The change of career path paid off for the 6-foot-6, 335-pound offensive lineman from Lambert High School in Cumming, GA, earlier this month when he signed a national letter of intent to play collegiately at East Carolina. Bailey was one of several late additions to ECU's recruiting class made by first-year head coach Scottie Montgomery after he took over the program in late December.

Cincinnati had previously received a verbal commitment from Bailey since last summer. But a whirlwind recruitment by the Pirates culminated with an pivotal in-home visit from Montgomery and offensive line coach Geep Wade in January.

“Sean had been committed to Cincinnati since mid-summer and everybody assumed he was going to Cincinnati,'' said Lambert High coach Louis Daniels. “But Coach Wade and Coach Montgomery showed a lot of interest in Sean, and they requested a sitdown to meet with us.

“We said, 'Sure. Sean will talk to anybody.' But personally I didn't see it (change) coming. So they sat down and talked with him, and about two weeks later he decided East Carolina is where he wanted to go to school.''

Bailey was swayed by Wade in particular.

“I really liked the way their offensive line coach explained what they planned to do,'' Bailey said. “He described all their drills, which are similar to what we do here. Then, when I got up to their campus it had a totally different feel. It feels like an SEC school, like a miniature Athens (Georgia) or something.''

When Bailey signed a letter of intent with the Pirates on Feb. 3rd, it marked another stage of a journey that began when he chose football over firefighting.

That life-altering decision wasn't a spur-of-the-moment one for Bailey. Like firefighting, football was in his blood.

His father, Steve Bailey, was good enough as an offensive guard to earn a scholarship offer from Boston College out of high school. But a coaching change three weeks before national signing day sent the elder Bailey off to Kent State instead.

Once committed to football, Sean Bailey's above-average size got him recognized by Daniels and his staff before he arrived at Lambert High School.

“I can't remember what feeder school he went to, but we saw him the spring (of eighth grade year) at a lacrosse game or soccer match,'' Daniels said. “You couldn't miss him. He was 6-4, probably, 280 or 300 pounds at that point. He was a large boy and we were real excited about him.

“Athletically, he was pretty good already. But he still had some maturing to do strengthwise.''

Bailey spent his first year at Lambert playing for the freshman team before earning a starting varsity job as a sophomore. He would go on to start three seasons for the Longhorns, earning all-region and all-county honors as a junior and senior.

Lambert produced a stellar 8-3 record in 2015 and reached the state playoffs behind an offense that produced 3,613 total yards. Bailey made a major contribution on that unit by grading out at 90 percent on his blocking assignments and compiling 85 pancake blocks. He made 11 of those pancake blocks in one game against Chattahoochee High.

One of the season's biggest moments for Bailey came early in the year during a major region contest against Lambert rival Alpharetta. The Longhorns had been regional runner-ups to Alpharetta for two straight years when the teams met last September 18 in Alpharetta.

“We knew the game was a big deal because they had won two straight regional championships, and they were the team to beat again,'' Daniels said. “They had a real good defensive lineman who had caused us a lot of issues the previous two years. But in the second quarter we ran a power play. Sean drives the kid off the ball about 15 yards down the field. He drives him down the field – and it was clean as a whistle – and pounds him into the ground about 15 yards from the pile.

“It was kind of symbolic, like, 'Hey, we're here this year. You're going to have to beat us this time around.' We wound up beating them (17-14) that night and we kind of turned a corner for us as a program.''

Bailey has played left tackle for the Longhorns and that appears to be where he'll play at East Carolina as well. With offensive linemen having completed their eligibility with the Pirates at the end of the 2015 season, there could be some early playing time available for younger blockers like Bailey next fall.

“They (ECU coaches) brought up the idea of starting me right away or as a redshirt freshman,'' Bailey said. “It's just my job to go in there and dominate, beat everyone out of my way and let the chips fall where they may. It's kind of up to me at this point.''

Either way, Daniels believes Bailey has the work ethic to get where he needs to be to contribute at ECU.

“Physically, he's there as far as his size is concerned,'' Daniels said. “One thing he needs to keep improving is his strength. He's a strong boy already and they have one of the best strength coaches in the nation to work with him. Sean is a gym rat. He works his tail off every day. He's going to keep maturing and I think his ceiling is unlimited.''

E-mail Sammy Batten

PAGE UPDATED 02/24/16 01:56 AM.

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