USC junior safety Dion Bailey, who finished the season with a team-high five interceptions, announced Monday he will forego his senior season and declare for the 2014 NFL Draft.
"There is not much more I can prove," Bailey told reporters gathered at the John McKay Center. Bailey described his fondest memories, including the 50-0 stomping over UCLA, the Trojans road victory over Oregon during that same 2011 season and of course the team's recent upset victory over then-No. 4 ranked Stanford at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Prior to the start of this season, Bailey made a transition from linebacker to safety, which included losing 15 pounds and conditioning his body for more speed and quickness to adjust to playing in more open space. The dividends seemed to pay off for Bailey, who finished the season with 61 tackles and 6.5 tackles-for-loss in USC's new-look defense under Clancy Pendergast.
Regarding his overall college sentiments, the Lakewood High School product made quite the transition from linebacker to safety and had already earned his degree in policy, planning and development. Last season, Bailey led the Trojans in interceptions and was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention while playing linebacker in Monte Kiffin's defense.
After what now can be called his final game as a Trojan, junior safety Dion Bailey took to social media to express his appreciation for former interim head coach Ed Orgeron and this team's dominant victory over Fresno State in Las Vegas, in which he recorded four tackles (2.5 TFL) in USC's strong defensive display.
Wow.. This team man.. What a way to finish this year !! #10Wins #ONETEAMONEHEARTBEAT— Dion Bailey (@dbailey_18) December 22, 2013
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN
While Bailey's loss will certainly make an impact on the field, the Trojans are extremely deep at the safety position and have plenty of young up-and-coming talent to fill his role in next year's defense.
While the overall scheme remains uncertain moving forward under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, freshman All-American Su'a Cravens has already cemented himself as a solid contributor in the backend of the defense and fellow freshman Leon McQuay made some tremendous strides in a limited role, finishing the year with 19 tackles and two for loss.
With Bailey and senior Demetrius Wright leaving, converted secondary ace Josh Shaw, a rather physical player who started at both cornerback and safety this season could switch back to safety next season.
While the Trojans are thin in terms of cover corners, the next class of recruits (most notably Jonathan Lockett) along with the play from Kevon Seymour could afford USC the assurance to transition Shaw back on a more full-time level.
Now in terms of Bailey's draft status, the results have been rather mixed for his NFL future. First and foremost, Bailey would be best served by utilizing his talents at safety in the next level or even possibly slot corner, to which he has been ranked the third overall free safety by draft insiders NFLdraftscout.com.
While not yet ranked by the ESPN draft experts, his overall status will really depend on his ability to show fluidity in his hips and pure cover skills as to whether he gets drafted around the level of fellow recent secondary pro T.J. McDonald.
Keep in mind that sometimes draft rankings don't necessarily mean everything as Nickell Robey declared early from USC last year and did not get drafted, yet is now starting and making solid contributions with the Buffalo Bills.