Southern exposure shapes Zack Bailey as top prospect

dmclemore@thestate.comJune 5, 2014 

  • Top SC prospects

    247Sports Composite’s Top 10 in SC for 2015

    1. Shameik Blackshear, DE, Bluffton

    2. Albert Huggins, DT, Orangeburg-Wilkinson

    3. Ty’Son Williams, RB, Crestwood

    4. Michael Barnett, DE, Woodland

    5. Zack Bailey, OG, Summerville, SC

— Zack Bailey walked into DuBose Middle School an average eighth-grader when he moved here in 2010. Only at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, he wasn’t average.

“Do you play football?” coaches asked. Bailey didn’t know how to answer.

The Bailey family moved from Washington as part of the Boeing company’s expansion in the Palmetto State. His football experience in The Evergreen State wasn’t a positive one.

“When I was living in Washington, all I did was play video games, sit on the couch and eat potato chips,” he said. “I wasn’t real active. I came here and my whole world changed for the better. The mentality here is a lot different than Washington. It’s what made my career.”

Four years later, the 6-foot-6, 315-pound Bailey is an integral part of the Summerville High football team and one of the most sought-after Class of 2015 recruits in the state.

Bailey didn’t know a lot about the sport when he arrived in Summerville, said running backs coach Chris Digby. He credits Bailey’s work ethic, natural strength and the influence of former Green Wave offensive line coach Buddy King.

“He was a big ol’ kid and he could run – we knew that,” said Digby, who helped coach the offensive line the last three seasons. “He’s been learning and understanding the game a lot better. It’s unbelievable mentally how much he’s developed over the last couple years. He’s always been big, but he’s a man now.”

Bailey recently finished second in the state in shot put with a distance of 54 feet, up from 48.4 feet last year. He’s also seen his 40-yard dash time drop from 5.2 seconds as a freshman to 4.93 this year.

He plays left guard for the Green Wave, and most recruiting analysts project him as a guard at the next level. Coaches often pull him and move him to the front side of a play to help clear the way for a running back.

King (now at Goose Creek) is credited with helping Bailey grow into the player he is today, raising his focus on practicing, playing and watching film.

“When I mess up, I’ll watch film over and over,” Bailey said. “Right after our game, our film gets loaded up. After our game I’m up until 2 o’clock in the morning watching film, seeing how I can do things different.”

Bailey will spend as much time as he can this summer weighing his recruiting choices and could be committed somewhere by the time the season begins.

South Carolina, Clemson and Southern California are showing the most interest, he said, and he’ll attend a Trojans camp this month. He’s been to Florida State, South Carolina, Clemson and wants to get to Georgia, Auburn and Florida.

While he likes both instate schools, he’s been to more Clemson games but has attended more USC practices and camps. The style of and his comfort level with his future position coach will be a big factor in his decision, he said. He was impressed by Shawn Elliott and his teaching approach with the Gamecocks and wants to see Clemson offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell in a camp setting this summer.

Bailey also has a baseball connection to USC and Clemson: He’s close friends at Summerville with Gamecocks baseball commit T.J. Hopkins and Tigers pledge Sawyer Bridges, who is also the Green Wave’s quarterback.

“My goal is to commit somewhere before the season starts,” he said. “There’s no rush. If I’m not 100 percent, I’m not going to commit. I’m not going to have second thoughts.”

Coaches called him a Boeing Baby when he moved to Summerville. Now that he’s older and more mature, he’s known as either Bailey or Big Country.

He has been humble throughout that growth as a football player and top recruit, Digby said.

“Zack is hungry. He recognizes that he’s not where he wants to be yet,” Digby said. “There are five or six teams that have a solid chance. He’s being selective. South Carolina is in the hunt for sure. He’s going to be special for somebody.”

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