LOS ANGELES – Like most of his teammates, Dion Bailey left the Coliseum disgruntled and disappointed last Saturday. The normally open and candid Bailey was short and lost for words following the 10-7 loss to Washington State.
After having a few days to reflect, Bailey was asked to share the most disappointing aspect of Saturday’s loss.
“We didn’t show up how we should’ve playing in the Coliseum,” he answered.
There was a certain level of perfection that the USC defense, in their minds, failed to obtain.
Sure, the Trojans limited the Cougars to just three points and seven yards rushing. They also recorded four sacks and forced three Cougars turnovers.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a defense in America that wouldn’t feel good about that type of performance. Still, it was not the perfect game they were looking for.
The USC defense failed to score.
“That was the reason we lost on Saturday,” Bailey said. “Their defense scored and ours didn’t. All the turnovers we got was for nothing because we didn’t take any of them into the paint, and they took one of the two that they got for a touchdown.
“That was the difference.”
USC’s defense is a +3 in turnover margin thanks to seven turnovers they’ve forced through two games, which is the most of any school in the Pac-12.
Bailey has been a key contributor to that, leading the team in tackles and picking off a pass in each of the first two games to lead the team in interceptions.
He’s also a bona fide ball hawk.
Being around the ball is nothing new for the redshirt junior. It’s something Kiffin and his staff noticed while recruiting Bailey out of Lakewood High School. Even during his time as a linebacker, he was around the ball, leading the team with four interceptions a season ago. Expecting a move back to his natural safety position in 2013, Bailey dedicated a good portion of his offseason to enhancing his ball skills and route recognition.
In the USC locker room, he was able to get tips from receivers Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor to try to get inside the minds of the pass catchers he would now be facing in his transition to safety.
Bailey picked Lee and Agholor’s brain on things like where they expected a defensive back to be while they were running certain routes and how they expected defensive backs to play others.
So far, it’s come in handy and Bailey’s been able to “show up for the defense.”
“I definitely want to be that guy for the defense this year,” Bailey said.
“Where we need a turnover, I want to be that guy that will come up with it.”
And somehow find a way to get it in for six points.