ZACK BAILE Y CONSIDERED HIMSELF to be a football player when his family moved from Seattle to North Charles- ton, S.C., prior to his freshman season
at Summerville High. He just didn’t consider
himself a South Carolina football player.
“Football in Washington is a little different,”
Bailey said. “It’s definitely not as big. Coming down
here, I walked on and the mentality was different.
It’s still football here, but it’s not the same.”
Bailey wasn’t quite ready for the intensity of
South Carolina football, so he spent his fresh-
man season playing junior varsity. By his sopho-
more season, the 6-foot- 5, 305-pound lineman
had earned a spot as Summerville’s starting
left guard. Now, heading into his senior season,
Bailey is regarded as the top offensive guard in
his new home state.
“My sophomore year was the biggest year I’ve
ever had – growth-wise,” Bailey said. “As much
as I’ve grown on the field, I’ve grown off of it. I had
to get in that mentality. Looking back, it’s like my
sophomore year was my first year playing.”
In his final season at Summerville this fall,
Bailey will look to continue to adjust to the
intensity of big-time football every day of the
week. He admits he could benefit from a more
focused approach to practice.
“The thing that separates me from other line-
men is how fast I am,” Bailey said. “Practice is
one thing, and I do believe you practice how you
play. But there’s a difference in the tempo and
style. I’m going all-out in practice, but the game
is all about the game. I’m never going to stop
pushing myself when I’m tired in a game.”
Bailey enters his senior season with a bit of
extra incentive. He is looking to bring legendary
coach John McKissick his 11th state champion-
ship in his 63rd season.
“This year, I hope we do great things as a
team,” Bailey said. “I love football because
you’re always working as a team to get better.
I love studying teams and things like that. This
year, I really think we’re capable of doing it.”
WHEN CLEVELAND HIGH (CLAY- ton, N.C.) defensive tackle Ster- ling Johnson shares his statistical goals for his senior season – 10
sacks, 40 tackles for a loss and 20 blocked
kicks – it sounds like an impossible proposition
for a player who can expect a steady stream of
double- and triple-teams.
But Johnson has proven it’s never wise to
bet against the 6-foot- 5, 275-pound defensive
lineman. Last season, facing those same aforementioned double- and triple-teams, Johnson
made plays all over the field, tallying 80 tackles
and eight sacks.
He came away from the 2013 season want-
ing to get faster and leaner so his athleticism
could be even more of a difference-maker.
“I’m usually faster than everybody else on
the line, but I’m not trying to tackle linemen,”
Johnson said. “I want to be able to line up in the
middle of the line and bounce outside to make
tackles on screens and sweeps.”
Johnson’s play-making ability has generated
a healthy dose of interest from college recruit-
ers. He received his first scholarship offer last
November from Clemson. In the following six
months, he received another 10, including of-
fers from defending national champion Florida
State, Ohio State and Florida.
“I always believed I’d play college football,
but I realized I could play at that level after I got
that offer from Clemson,” Johnson said. “They
were the first, so I can’t forget that. I’m just trying to keep a level head and continue to work.”
Before Johnson emerged as one of the nation’s top defensive line prospects, he used to
play two hours of video games per day. Now he
spends that time speaking with recruiters and
researching college programs so he can make
the most informed decision.
“I like watching defensive schemes to picture
how I’ll fit in,” Johnson said. “I want to see how
coaches coach during games.”
Calm and composed by nature, Johnson
plans to pursue a career in sports broadcasting
when as his football career is over.
“My favorite show is ‘College Game Day,’”
Johnson said. “I’d love to be on that show after
I’m done playing.”
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