Ranking USC Football’s early NFL draftees’ hypothetical senior seasons
No. 8 Dion Bailey | 2014
While it’s unclear just how much Xavier Grimble might have impacted the 2014 season, Dion Bailey’s return would have set off some pretty major dominos.
Going into the year, a season-ending injury to strongside linebacker Jabari Ruffin forced safety Su’a Cravens to convert into a hybrid safety-linebacker role. As a result, the Trojans leaned on a combination of Gerald Bowman, Leon McQuay III and John Plattenburg at safety.
But bring Bailey back and the Trojan defense would have had an extra playmaker to take the pressure off of Cravens, who wouldn’t have had to change positions.
Working primarily as a hybrid nickelback in 2013, Bailey tallied 6.5 tackles for loss and led the team with five interceptions. In 2011 and 2012 he started as the Trojans’ SAM linebacker.
With Bailey at SLB and Cravens still covering ground at strong safety, it becomes much less likely that the Trojans would have given up more than 500 yards in losses to Boston College and Arizona State.
Perhaps Bailey’s veteran presence prevents ASU’s Jael Mary entirely. Perhaps he’s there to stop Travis Wilson and the Utes in the final seconds of USC’s three-point loss in Salt Lake City.