LOS ANGLES, Calif. — Dion Bailey watched from the sideline on Tuesday as his team took the practice field outside of the John McKay Center for an offseason players-only throwing session. The sideline is where the redshirt junior will be spending practice for nearly the next six months as he recovers from a recent shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.
“I’ll be able to run and all that kind of stuff in May,” Bailey said of the timeline set for him return to physical activity, “so that’s when I’m coming back -- in my mind.”
When the 6-foot 210-pound Bailey does make his return to football, something he says will “definitely” happen before the open of fall camp, there will be a couple of noticeable differences on the defensive side of the ball.
First, he’ll be playing under the leadership of new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and “some sort of 3-4” defense, as Bailey explains it.
“We had a couple of meetings with [Pendergast] teaching us the defense,” he explained. “It’s like a 5-2 -- 3-4 multiple defense type thing. Plus, [Pendergast] is going to get real creative and let us run around and be ourselves pretty much and make plays.”
Secondly, after spending the last two seasons as a linebacker, where he made 80 tackles and four interceptions in 2012, Bailey will be moving back to his natural position in the secondary. Recruited as a safety out of Lakewood (Calif.) High School, he says he’s excited to get back to where he feels comfortable.
“I feel like I can make plays on the ball, especially at [safety] -- and utilize my skills to make plays in open space,” Bailey said.
After a tumultuous season for the Trojans, who went from No. 1 to a 7-6 finish, Bailey says these offseason workouts are more to reset their minds and build camaraderie more than anything. “[We’re] just staying focused and worrying about things we can control,” he said. “We’re working on being a family. It was pretty split up last year and we’re just trying to bring it all back together so we can have a good year.
As he watched teammates conclude Tuesday’s throwing session with backflips and cheers, a smile came across Bailey’s face. Even though he’s temporarily relegated to the sideline, he remains optimistic better days lie ahead for USC.
“We’re loosening up and having fun,” he said. “It’s a good thing to see out here.”