Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way an elite prospect like Harrison Bailey might lean plus add some perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.
Everyone likes to read about Golden Boy Quarterbacks. That’s a safety valve check down for recruiting coverage. That play call works well for day-to-day beat coverage, too.
Marietta’s Harrison Bailey was — in my estimation — one of the Top 5 QBs in Georgia last fall. My list at the end of the year read: 1) Davis Mills; 2) Trevor Lawrence; 3) Jake Fromm; 4) Justin Fields; 5) Harrison Bailey.
That list may or may not be in order. Those first three names were usually bunched tighter than a Talladega turn. Bailey belonged. But then I thought about this: Do folks REALLY want to commit the name of a 2020 prospect to memory? Even a quarterback?
Too late. Bailey is already that guy. He’s been that guy. SEC offensive coordinators and some guy named Nick Saban knew who he was before he entered high school.
There’s the rush to anoint everyone as the next big thing. It is part of our culture. But it is different here. My daily charge is to write extensively about the state’s best high school players and everyone else who might be a candidate to play at UGA.
When I scan the field, it seems pretty lax that I haven’t written anything extensive on Bailey. But the effort was made to pump the breaks here. For at least a year.
That said, it just feels like holding back water at this point. Bailey completed 57 percent of his passes for 2,812 yards in 2016. He had a 21:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio while completing 20 passes per game.
The rising sophomore had elite sophomore Ramel Keyton to throw to, but that was his only clear college prospect at receiver.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder first captured my interest during Nike’s 2016 Atlanta Opening regional. Check the tweet below. This was what he looked like a year ago.
— Sanjay Kirpalani (@SanjayKirpalani) March 20, 2016
Bailey soon went from the “file that name away” to “watch him as much as possible” in terms of Georgia prep prospects. Remember the line Leonardo DiCaprio used in “Django Unchained” to describe a business deal?
“You had my interest,” DiCaprio’s character stated. “Now you have my attention.”
Tracking Harrison Bailey
The young Marietta QB reached that stage after I saw him at the Cam Newton 7-on-7 tournament last Memorial Day. Mills, the nation’s top-rated pro prospect for 2017, was his usual textbook passing clinic self.
The Stanford signee was perfectly cast in the role of All-American rising senior with all the tools. But there was the 2020 kid who threw it around like Mills.
Mills was better, but he by no means looked three full high school seasons better. Those two worked side-by-side taking snaps for the same team.
“Davis really taught me how to stay cool,” Bailey said. “Even when something good or bad happens. To always stay cool and not to get too high or too low about certain things that happen on the field.”
Rusty Mansell of 247Sports shared with his readers over a year ago that Bailey already had spider webs for hands. They were larger than Georgia starting QB Jacob Eason’s were in high school.
Bailey picked up his first offer from Georgia coach Mark Richt shortly after he took over at Miami. That’s when he was still in the eighth grade.
Do folks want to know about a young man who won’t play college football until the final year of Trump’s first term?
Bailey will probably be 6 feet, 6 inches by the time 2020 rolls around. He’ll be hitting his head on the same evaluation ceilings Jacob Eason and Trevor Lawrence did.
Here’s a fair point: Is it reckless to already project Bailey to be as good as Jacob Eason, Davis Mills and Trevor Lawrence? Or is it a reality?
Tony Ballard trains Bailey. He has for some time. I wanted to know what he thought about that.
“Absolutely,” Ballard said. “No question. He’s definitely on that track.”
Ballard is one of the most respected QB trainers in the South. I’ve started calling him the “Quarterback Sherpa” the last few years. Why? Because he takes guys on a long climb to the top of the mountain. See Mills. Mills was also influenced by some strong mental and physical development from Tim Hardy at Greater Atlanta Christian.
But the high school coach no longer seems to do it all. We live in an age where advanced QB training is the norm for top prospects. Ballard has seen a lot of those guys.
“I think (Bailey) is about two years ahead of his time,” Ballard said.
Harrison Bailey’s way early outlook
Bailey’s recruiting story may follow the new curve for the alpha quarterback. The prospect surveys the field at an early age. The mass visits take place by the sophomore year. There will be just a select few schools at the end.
Lawrence followed a similar pattern.
Georgia fans hope that the QB succession plan in Athens follows a parameter that fits Bailey’s progress. I already get Bailey questions all the time. Jacob Eason will be gone by 2018 or 2019. Jake Fromm’s timeline could go to 2020.
It feels outlandish to project guys out that far. Fromm hasn’t even taken a college snap. But the Bailey timeline calls for looking that far downfield.
That Miami offer came in February of 2016. FSU was his latest in February of 2017. North Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia all came in between. Georgia finally offered back in October.
Bailey did not grow up with a dream school. Not really.
“I kind of watched everybody,” Bailey said. “Dream school? If I had to say, I guess I would probably say Florida.”
Tim Tebow was the reason for that. That was his favorite player. He’s a 2020 prospect, but the modern recruiting reality for an elite QB is the junior year. That’s when most settle on their decision.
“Some schools have been knocking on the door but some schools have been laying low until I get older,” Bailey said. “Georgia, of course, has really been pushing hard.”
He does notice the succession plan at UGA. That’s even though the Bulldogs hope to have signed at least a couple of dual-threat QBs by 2019.
“Fromm is the class of 2017,” Bailey said. “I’m the class of 2020. Even if he redshirts and then plays a couple of years I will just have to redshirt just one year and then try to win the job. That’s unless they pick up somebody very good in 2018 or 2019.”
Harrison Bailey’s future
Ballard thinks Bailey’s mental approach is his best tool.
“He has a desire to be better today than yesterday like no other,” Ballard said. “His mental aspect is as good as it gets for his age.”
He evaluates QBs based on tools. Not just physical tools. He studies what the leader of the offense does with the talent he has around him in the huddle.
“That’s why I have the utmost respect for Davis Mills,” Ballard said. “Look what he did with the talent around him. No 2, 3, 4 or 5-stars and he took Greater Atlanta Christian to two state championship games and (the state semifinals) in three years as the starter. Now, look what Harrison did with that this past year.”
The Blue Devils are on the rise, but they won just three games last year. That program has had just two seasons of double-digit wins since 1996.
“Harrison has the potential to do what Davis and Trevor have done as long as he continues to develop on and off the field,” Ballard said.
That’s a good sign Bailey will continue to get better. Substantially. He felt his junior year also seemed like a logical time frame to make his decision.
“I want my sister to go to school with me,” Bailey said. “So probably either before or during junior year.”
That’s his older sister. He hopes his choice hopes will help influence her decision. The plan is for both of them to go to the same school.
Georgia was the 10th school to offer Bailey a scholarship.
“Georgia was kind of iffy at first,” Bailey said. “Like before I got the offer. Now that they have offered me and are recruiting me I have been following (Georgia offensive coordinator) coach (Jim) Chaney. They have moved from iffy to high.”
He said the Bulldogs are in constant contact with a steady stream of edits and messages through social media.
Bailey noted that North Carolina has caught his attention. The Tar Heels already show an extreme amount of interest. UNC would be an “up there” school for him, too.