Saturday November 28th, 2015 8:06AM

Bailey ready to crank up speed, build on strong sophomore campaign for Dogs

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
ATHENS -- Sterling Bailey only knows one speed these days.

"Everything is about pace -- pace in practice, pace going from drill to drill, pace running off to the sideline," Bailey said. "This staff wants us full speed all the time."

Welcome to the new style of Bulldogs defense, and Bailey -- a former East Hall standout and current Georgia defensive end -- is happy to oblige.

"It's going really well; I'm running the defense really fast now," said Bailey, who -- like all Bulldogs defenders -- is in his first spring under new Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who has brought a sense of urgency to practice sessions since taking over from the same position at Florida State.

"We never slow down, but we're starting to get the hang of it," Bailey said.

That understanding did not come over night, and Bailey admits that he and his teammates still have a lot of learning to do, but after nine practice sessions under Pruitt -- who hopes to install the same kind of attacking, speedy style that defined last year's BCS Champion Florida State Seminoles -- the redshirt sophomore can already see major improvements. And that certainly includes in himself.

"It has had its rough times, but we're getting used to it," said Bailey, who started in nine games in 2013, recording 34 tackles and a sack. "It took me a while to get used to things, but once I got it, it clicked with me."

Bailey adds that learning his way around former coordinator Todd Grantham's defense last season has been a help with his new tasks.

"It was different, but once you got it, you understood what you needed to be doing -- and there's a lot of things I'm doing the same with this defense," Bailey said.

That starts with winning the line of scrimmage and being disruptive, something that Bailey managed in a number of contests last season, chiefly against then-No. 6 South Carolina, when the sophomore registered 10 tackles and his lone sack. He also racked up four stops against then-No. 8 Clemson.

"It was great but with the schedule we were in last year and playing in the SEC, it was like, OK, now you've got to move on to the next game," Bailey said. "You can't dwell on any one game."

That said Bailey also expects to improve over last year's performance.

"My expectations for myself are high; I expect to be great (next season)," the 6-foot-3, 282 pound defensive end said.

That expectancy extends to the entire Georgia defense, which hopes to take a giant step forward from last year's unit that tied for 79th in the nation in scoring at 29 points per game, and 45th in total defense at 375.5 yards per game. And those hopes are not diminished by the fact that they will be under a new defensive staff.

"The sky's the limit with this group," Bailey said. "We've got 10 starters back, and we've got a great recruiting class coming in. We know all about last season, and we just want to show people we've gotten better. We're using the bowl game (a 24-19 loss to Nebraska) and Auburn game (a heartbreaking 43-38 loss) to help motivate us every day."

To that end Bailey says he is pushing himself and attempting to soak everything up from new position coach Tracy Rocker -- himself a former All-American defensive lineman at Auburn.

"He expects everything from us," Bailey said of Rocker. "I'm just enjoying his teaching and trying to be coachable every day."

With players eager to impress the new staff and the competition that is typical of spring practice, Bailey says he has had to be at his best.

"Every day there is big-time competition," Bailey said. "We push each other to be the best, and we love each other (along the defensive line). And right now the defensive line is taking the lead because we're kind of the oldest group of defensive players, and everything starts up front."

Considering that Bailey will be a redshirt junior by the time the Bulldogs play host to Clemson in the 2014 season opener, the former Viking standout also understands that he will be an example for others.

"I'm trying to push; right now the coaches are looking for leadership, and if they need me to lead, I'll lead," Bailey said.

If the former East Hall standout continues the ascension he began last season, that kind of position may come by default -- and it may even have a few consequences for his former team.

"East Hall football is already on the rise; the students have started buying in," Bailey said. "And if they see me doing well, someone that was in the same situation that they are in -- if they see I made it, that might motivate them even more."

You can bet Bailey will be doing his best to motivate a lot of people come fall.

-- NOTE: There are six more practices left in Georgia's spring football schedule, including the annual spring scrimmage game -- G-Day, which is set for a 1 p.m. kickoff on April 12 at Sanford Stadium in Athens. The game is open to the public and is free of charge, though canned goods donations will be accepted at the gates.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 10 months ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 10 months ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 10 months ago )
Jackets, Mississippi St. clash in Orange Bowl
No. 10 Georgia Tech has the nation's second-ranked rushing offense. No. 8 Mississippi State has held seven of its 12 opponents under 125 yards on the ground.
5:04PM ( 10 months ago )
Ole Miss defense braces for TCU offense in Peach Bowl
Mississippi and TCU were part of the playoffs story in 2014. Each team was part of the chase. Each team fell short of the coveted semifinals.
5:01PM ( 10 months ago )
Kiffin shining again after season of redemption
Lane Kiffin was modest in his goals and complimentary about the team he'll be facing in the Sugar Bowl. He went on and on about how much he's learned from Nick Saban, while insisting it's no big deal when his boss yells at him. Very un-Kiffin-like, you might say.
11:02PM ( 10 months ago )
College Sports
PLAYOFFS: Three goes into four, as area trio earn semifinal berths
Once the dust settled on Friday night, northeast Georgia found three teams still standing in the state football playoffs -- and it was so nearly four...
9:14AM ( 1 hour from now )
(VIDEO) Class AAAA: Buford stomps into ninth straight state semifinal
Were it any other team the number alone would seem absurd, but Buford football could care less about numbers at this time of year -- at least any number but "one."
By AccessWDUN Staff
8:58AM ( 51 minutes from now )
(VIDEO) Class AAAAAA: Mill Creek routs Archer to advance to first semifinals
Mill Creek used a dominating defensive performance to whip Archer 23-0 and advance to its first-ever semifinals in a Class AAAAAA quarterfinal matchup Friday night at Mill Creek Community Stadium.
8:58AM ( 51 minutes from now )
Class A Public: Road warrior Tigers march back into semifinals
The road keeps on getting longer -- and Commerce football is enjoying every second of the ride.
By AccessWDUN Staff
8:57AM ( 50 minutes from now )
(VIDEO) Class AAA: Dawson's magical run ended by BT, Shelton
Dawson County football will never forget a magical 2015 football season.
8:56AM ( 49 minutes from now )