Scrolling Headlines:

Man who threatened to bomb Coolidge Hall taken into ICE custody -

June 24, 2017

Cale Makar drafted by Colorado Avalanche in first round of 2017 NHL Entry Draft -

June 24, 2017

Conservatives: The Trump experiment is over -

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UMass basketball lands transfer Kieran Hayward from LSU -

May 18, 2017

UMass basketball’s Donte Clark transferring to Coastal Carolina -

May 17, 2017

Report: Keon Clergeot transfers to UMass basketball program -

May 15, 2017

Despite title-game loss, Meg Colleran’s brilliance in circle was an incredible feat -

May 14, 2017

UMass softball loses in heartbreaker in A-10 title game -

May 14, 2017

Navy sinks UMass women’s lacrosse 23-11 in NCAA tournament second round, ending Minutewomen’s season -

May 14, 2017

UMass softball advances to A-10 Championship game -

May 13, 2017

UMass basketball adds Rutgers transfer Jonathan Laurent -

May 13, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse gets revenge on Colorado, beat Buffs 13-7 in NCAA Tournament First Round -

May 13, 2017

Meg Colleran dominates as UMass softball tops Saint Joseph’s, advances in A-10 tournament -

May 12, 2017

Rain keeps UMass softball from opening tournament play; Minutewomen earn A-10 honors -

May 11, 2017

Former UMass football wide receiver Tajae Sharpe accused of assault in lawsuit -

May 10, 2017

Justice Gorsuch can save the UMass GEO -

May 10, 2017

Minutemen third, Minutewomen finish fifth in Atlantic 10 Championships for UMass track and field -

May 8, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse wins A-10 title for ninth straight season -

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Dayton takes two from UMass softball in weekend series -

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Towson stonewalls UMass men’s lacrosse in CAA Championship; Minutemen season ends after 9-4 loss -

May 6, 2017

Bailey becoming more comfortable in new role

FootBDuring the Massachusetts football team’s first winter workout, redshirt junior Ke’Mon Bailey approached coach Kevin Morris with a unique proposition.

He wanted to play defense.

Bailey, who had been a wide receiver up until that point in his college career, was looking to switch to cornerback, a position that had been vacated after All-Americans Sean Smalls and Courtney Robinson graduated.

“He told me at first that if they needed me to play receiver, I had to come back, but to try it out anyway, but to not count on [playing defense],” Bailey said of Morris’ reaction.

Through the first three games, though, Morris and the No. 15 Minutemen have had to count on Bailey. Since winning the job during training camp, Bailey has excelled at his new position. With 12 tackles (six solo), three pass deflections and a fumble recovery through three games, Bailey has hit the ground running in his first year on the defensive side of the ball.

Such productivity, though, was far from unexpected for Morris.

“We were looking for guys to help out the team [in] any way they can,” Morris said. “Ke’Mon’s always been a team guy, and he stepped right up into the role, and I feel he’s done a tremendous job.”

Bailey played defensive back in high school in addition to wide receiver, but in his transition at the college level, he had to virtually relearn the position.

“I took some from it,” Bailey said about what he kept from his high school play. “But I started basically from scratch. I went back home, had to train real hard with my trainer to get back into the transition of backpedalling, coming out of breaks and change in direction.”

Switching sides in the middle of his career brought some challenges for Bailey. In addition to the new personnel, system and terminology, he had to deal with a complete shift in mechanics.

“My biggest challenge would have to be the change in direction,” Bailey said. “From running full speed forward, to trying to stop somebody backpedalling; that had to be the hardest part.”

Bailey, though, did have an advantage coming from the outside of the ball. Coming naturally from the perspective of the wide receiver, Bailey knows how other receivers think, and tries to use that to his advantage.

“It gave me, I think, an advantage because I use the knowledge of a receiver, the way I ran my routes to how receivers run their routes now, and I can basically predict what they’re going to do before they do it.”

The quick transition and unexpected success of Bailey has been a recurring theme for the Minutemen all season, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

With Smalls and Robinson graduating and preseason All-Conference linebacker Josh Jennings sidelined with an injury, UMass entered the season without many of its defensive leaders. The Minutemen are also without defensive guru Don Brown as head coach, and the defense, which was a disappointment in 2008, was expected to be mediocre in 2009.

“They’ve performed extremely well,” Morris said. “We’re not letting up points. And a lot of that is up front, then you get to your backers and then that back end’s got to hold up too. You saw us last week with a more throwing offense and [we] did a pretty good job last Saturday holding a real strong quarterback down.”

With unexpected contributions from players like Bailey, the UMass defense has played far beyond its expectations. Individually, though, Bailey, along with senior Corey Davis on the other side of the field, has had to live up to the enormous reputations of their predecessors.

          During his senior season, Smalls was projected as a legitimate NFL prospect before a major knee injury derailed his professional career. Robinson, meanwhile, was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles and spent time with them in camp.     

“To replace those guys, to play at that high a level, it’s not easy,” Morris said. “Guys [have] got to step up, you know, Corey Davis and Ke’Mon have done a great job, and we haven’t missed a beat defensively.”

So while the defense and its inexperienced starters may surprise the rest of the conference, Morris and his team know what they are capable of all along: A group of players ready to contribute, including Bailey, regardless of which side of the ball he plays on.

Nick O’Malley can be reached at nomalley@student.umass.edu.

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