Bailey looking for more in 2nd season at LB
LOS ANGELES - When Dion Bailey was moved from safety to linebacker in the spring of 2011, he didn't take too well to it.
In fact, he didn't like it at all.
Bailey was a national recruit coming out of Lakewood High School in 2010 where he picked off 12 passes over his final two seasons with the Lancers.
"Coming out of high school everybody thinks they're the best at what they do," Bailey said. "I thought I was the best safety in the world, but Coach Kiffin - Coach Lane and Coach Monte - they know better than I do and it's been a great move for me."
He was quickly able to dust off the dislike for his position change and certainly didn't let that affect his play. Bailey was tied for the team lead with 81 tackles as a redshirt freshman in 2011 despite not playing in last November's game at Colorado after suffering a concussion against Stanford the week before.
It was a move that really paid dividends for the Trojans, helping them evolve into a unit that only allowed four opponents to break the 17-point barrier in 2011.
Bailey's move from safety was sparked by what Lane Kiffin calls the evolution of college football with defenses having to face spread offenses on a weekly basis.
"Rather you're moving safeties (to linebacker) or you're recruiting people that are smaller and faster, we just believe that's the direction you need to go," Kiffin said.
"The big days of three really big linebackers are probably over."
Bailey, at 6-0, 210 pounds, is light enough and fast enough to be able to stay with tight ends and wide receivers down field, while also being able to support against the run. He provides the Trojans with a hybrid at the SAM linebacker spot.
"We don't have big outside linebackers," said defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. "He's 210 (pounds), 212 (pounds) so he fits more of a nickel defensive back type guy. So, it's worked out really well. He's really good against all of the spread offenses."
Bailey earned freshman All-American honors last season for his play on the field in just his first season playing linebacker. He has been named to numerous watch lists, including the Butkus Award which is handed out to the nation's top linebacker at the end of the season. His surprising rise to stardom last season has only made him hungrier for more.
"It just so happened I made a lot more (plays) than people expected last year. So the expectations for my performance are a lot higher this year," Bailey said. "I want to double my numbers from last year, in everything from last year. I got to keep progressing, get better at every aspect of the game year in and year out.
"If you stay inconsistent or getting worse, you not making no money. We all play this game to make it to the next level so I need to go out there and do what I got to do to show everybody that I'm progressing, I'm still getting better, and I'm not content with how I played last year."
Lane has challenged Bailey to up the ante.
"(He's one of the) guys that started as freshmen for us," said Lane. "Now it's time to go to the next level. Go from being freshman All-Americans to All-Americans like a lot of the guys have done here in the past."