BY GREGG ELLIS
STARKVILLE – During the SEC's media days back in July, Sylvester Croom admitted he was worried if anyone would step up and be the type of leader he needed.
On Sunday, his concerns magnified following what he deemed a bad first practice.
Two days later, though, his tone changed dramatically.
On Tuesday, the fifth-year Mississippi State coach said he finally saw guys step up and emerge as leaders.
Jessie Bowman was one. So was Dominic Douglas, as well as Tim Bailey.
All three are starters on defense and enter the season with high expectations from their respective positions.
“These guys set themselves apart,” Croom said. “But we need more.”
For Bailey, a senior defensive end from Glen Allan, leadership comes naturally.
Remember, a couple of years ago he was fighting in Iraq with his National Guard unit. It was there, he said, he learned to take charge.
Although playing college football isn't life-or-death or a situation where he's fighting for freedom, he knows to excel on the gridiron it's imperative to have strong leadership.
“It's just natural for me,” said Bailey, who played in all 13 games a year ago and registered 25 tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage. “I welcome that responsibility. That's what the coaches expect from me, and that's what I'm here to do.”
Considering there are several new faces starting up front, including both ends, Bailey knows there has to be leadership. And that, he said, is one of the reasons the line has looked sharp the first three days.
Because of attrition, many felt this area would be one of the team's big question marks entering the season. However, Bailey says don't be quick to think as such.
“We've got a lot of guys out here that have played, even if they haven't started,” he said following the first practice with shoulder pads. “But every guy on the D-line has shown they are capable of getting to the football.”
Bailey came to MSU from Mississippi Delta Community College as a linebacker. It didn't take long for the coaching staff to move him up front.
The transition, he said, has been great and one he has no regrets about.
“This is probably where I should have been all along,” he said. “You know, there aren't a lot of assignments. Just rush the quarterback or get to the ball. It's not like the linebackers, where they get a lot of the blame if something goes wrong.”