Bailey is maturing for Nevada | NevadaAppeal.com

Bailey is maturing for Nevada

RENO – Craig Bailey’s goal is simple – keep improving and help the team win football games.

Bailey, the Wolf Pack’s 6-4 260-pound junior defensive end, has held up his end of the bargain. While a few of his line teammates have been banged up throughout the season and missed games, Bailey has played through some nicks and bruises to have the best season of his career.

Through eight games, Bailey has racked up 27 tackles, including three sacks for minus-24 yards and he’s blocked a field goal. The three sacks are the second-most on the team behind senior Chris Barry.

“My goal has always been to get better,” Bailey said as the 4-4 Wolf Pack prepared for Saturday’s game (6 p.m.) at Mackay Stadium against San Jose State. “I feel like I’m improving every week.

“The last couple of years I haven’t gotten as many snaps because I was playing behind Jorge Cordova (part of that time). I’m gaining experience and trying to get better.”

In Cordova, Bailey had a good role model, and hopefully some of Cordova’s ability and approach to the game has rubbed off on him.

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“The main thing I can say is that Jorge was a real intense player,” Bailey said. “He was a high-energy type of guy; a guy that had a high motor. He will never stop; never quit. I’m trying to get to that (level).

“That (not starting) is going to be difficult.You have to know your role and accept it. It’s a team and you have to do what is best for the team.”

Bailey, who considers himself a better pass rusher than run defender, is coming off the best game of his career. He recorded seven tackles, including a sack for 13 yards, and blocked a field goal late in the third quarter in Nevada’s wild 54-48 triple-overtime victory over Tulsa on Oct. 23. The blocked field goal came with Nevada holding a 27-20 lead.

“The game against Tulsa was the best game of his career,” co-defensive coordinator Barry Sacks said. “He was all over the place. He gave us a complete game; 88 snaps.

“He can be a good pass-rusher. I still think his best football is ahead of him.”

Nobody will dispute Bailey’s ability to play the game. What teammates and coaches talk about is the added maturity over the last couple of years. He’s a lot more focused, on and off the field.

“He’s where he’s supposed to be; he’s accountable,” Sacks said. “He’s matured so much. When I first met him, I had to ride him everyday.”

Bailey doesn’t deny Sacks’ comment.

“I think that’s the way it is with every incoming freshman,” Bailey said. “You come in with big eyes, and it’s not until the second or third year you get the feel for things and how they work.”

And if Bailey’s best football is indeed ahead of him, the Wolf Pack defensive line is in good shape for the rest of this season and the next.

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281.

The Bailey File

Position: Defensive end

Height: 6-4

Weight: 260

Year in school: Junior

High school: Lakewood High School (Southern California)