Can he win the job?
It’s incredibly early in camp, but to this point, it seems like Michigan transfer Joe Milton has absorbed most of the headlines. Milton went through his first practice with Tennessee on Wednesday, impressing with his 6-5, 240 pound frame and live arm.
However, don’t forget about Harrison Bailey. The sophomore passer is just a year removed from his billing as a top prospect. He was able to get his feet wet with a handful of starts last season, even though he was splitting time. Now armed with one of the most potent and proven offensive systems in the country, Bailey is ready to show what he’s got.
“I feel really good in this offense,” Bailey said of Josh Heupel’s offense. “I’ve really taken the time in the film room to pick up the offense and learn the ins and outs of it and what everybody is doing. So this camp is where I can really show it.”
Bailey, along with Brian Maurer and Hendon Hooker, went through the install phase during the spring. That’s where he has a leg up on Milton, who joined Tennessee at the start of the summer. Bailey was impressive in the spring game, attacking down the field with quite a bit of success.
In total, Bailey threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns, connecting on 12 of 15 passes. He was confident and in total control, looking much improved from his freshman results. The most notable change was his mentality and freedom, really attacking deep.
That was one thing that Bailey said he had been working on, along with his mobility.
“The two things I focused on were my body so I can run and move better,” Bailey continued. “That’s one. They actually sent us our before and after pictures today. I dropped a couple percent body fat. Lost about five or so pounds. I can really see myself moving better within the pocket. And really just running, I feel a lot better. Then second I would say my deep ball. I’ve been able to really adjust the way and the angles I throw my deep ball. Besides that, it’s been really good. Really excited for this season.”
Bailey ended the 2020 season appearing in six games, throwing for 578 yards. He completed 70 percent of his throws, going 48-68 on the year. Bailey threw four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Now with Heupel in town, it’s a totally new experience. It’s pedal-to-the-medal offense designed to apply as much pressure as possible, both with tempo and spread concepts. Bailey says that speed creates a need for simplicity, something that he says is allowing him to just ‘play ball.’
“Y’all seen it in the spring game, but just our ability to push the ball down the field,” Bailey said. “We play so fast. We get a lot of defenses out of where they want to be lined up. We also play so fast that our offense kind of has to be simple to a point. And decisions are easy. Really all you have to do is drop back and play ball.”