Looks Like University Of Illinois - Matthew Bailey

May 10, 2022

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So here's how this works. I have one of those "don't say it don't say it don't say it" jokes in my head where I'm trying to connect Matthew Bailey with the song "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey?" But "won't you come home Matt Bailey?" isn't really working so I Google the Bill Bailey song (from 1902!) to read up on the backstory. I click on a YouTube link to a performance of the song, and while I'm watching this, the ol' algorithm gets me again with this sidebar suggestion:

Pianist SHOCKS Audience With Moonlight Sonata Dubstep Remix

I'm always up for some modern Beethoven interpretations so I click on it. Here's the video. You don't have to watch it. I'm just telling a story.

Apparently this performance was live-streamed so every now and then, on the video, you see the live-stream comments. I enjoy reading comments like that, perhaps in the same way that Beethoven would enjoy hearing a modern interpretation of his work: not for me, but I appreciate the generational spin on it. One of those comments was someone getting excited when the beat dropped: NIGHTMARE SONATA LET'S GO.

I very much enjoyed that comment. I don't really know why. Perhaps the part of me that enjoys coming up with post titles here enjoyed "Nightmare Sonata" as a way to describe dubstep Beethoven. But that was the click. After a morning where I didn't have any words in my fingers, they've returned. I can now write this LLUOI. That's my process.

Thank you for attending this TED talk.

Matthew Bailey is a safety from the Quad Cities who committed to Illinois in late January. I am now writing his LLUOI in May. He will arrive on campus in June. And because most of these guys arrive in June, here's the amended order of LLUOI articles I'm writing ("amended" simply to move Antwon Hayden from 6th to 12th because I want to knock out all of the 2022 articles first).

  1. Gabe Jacas
  2. Kaden Feagin
  3. Tyson Rooks
  4. Xavier Scott
  5. Matthew Bailey
  6. Elijah Mc-Cantos
  7. Isaiah Adams
  8. Naivyan Cargill
  9. Raashaan Wilkins
  10. Terrell Jennings
  11. Dylan Davis
  12. Antwon Hayden

I thought that this article from the Quad City Times was the best thing I read when researching him. Here's a snippet:

Matthew Bailey had planned to go to Wharton Field House last Friday night to watch the Moline and Galesburg boys basketball game.

Those plans were altered once Moline High School football coach Mike Morrissey called Bailey to the athletic office that afternoon.

The conversation changed Bailey's life in a hurry.

"I asked him, 'Hey, what plans do you have tonight?'" Morrissey said.

"Oh, just going to the basketball game," Bailey replied.

"Not anymore," Morrissey said. "You're going on an official visit to Illinois.

"And then you could just see the big smile on his face."

Morrissey had just gotten off the phone with University of Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters. Bailey had worked out in front of Illinois staffers Friday morning, and Walters called Morrissey quickly after that.

"(Walters) came down to watch this workout and then called down to Coach (Bret Bielema) at Illinois and was like, 'If we don't take this kid we are crazy,'" Bailey said. "And so they set up an official visit for this past weekend. It was very last minute."

It reminds me of - and this is not "it reminds me of this player so his career will be exactly like this player" - Sam LaPorta being recruited by Iowa. I don't know Sam LaPorta, nor do I know his family, but I went to the same high school as Sam LaPorta and followed his recruitment because of it. LaPorta was mostly an unknown recruit - I believe he was deciding between Bowling Green, Illinois State, and Southern Illinois - and then the weekend before Signing Day in 2018, Iowa offered. The senior film was too good and they had to offer. He was honorable mention All Big Ten as a sophomore, third-team All Big Ten last year, and now will likely be the best tight end in the Big Ten in 2022.

For decades, Iowa has made a living off using their final scholarships on kids like this. The late-blooming senior on no one's radar but someone they've been monitoring for a long time. That's what the Matthew Bailey recruitment feels like to me. He camped at Illinois last June (if you read the full article linked above, you heard him say that he thought he blew it with a bad workout because he was gimpy after a track meet the day before). The staff monitored him throughout the season, Ryan Walters went to see him work out in January, and a few days before late signing day, an official visit and an offer. From deciding between Western Illinois, Eastern Illinois, and North Dakota one day to "offer from Illinois" the next.

So was "the senior film just too good" here? I think so. I'd offer simply based on these two clips. For this first one, don't watch Bailey (in the arrow). Only watch the QB who gets the snap:

My friend Brian once made the argument that defenders should get a small rope that they attach to their belts. And if they drop someone in the backfield like Bailey did in that clip, one time per game, they're allowed to tie them up like calf-roping at a rodeo. You know, like this:

Want to increase college football viewership? Put Brian in charge.

This next clip, though - this is the offer clip. Note the down and distance: third down and seven. Ballcarrier needs to get to the 49 to pick up the first down. Quarterback scrambles, dumps it down to the tailback sneaking out of the backfield, and the only guy who can stop him is Bailey, coming from the deep safety position.

Does he get the first down?

No, he does not.

I'm not gonna lie, I've watched that on loop at least 75 times. He's beyond the 35 chasing a receiver when he sees the play developing. Full sprint to the spot. Zero-hesitation square-up tackle. One yard short. Offer offer offer.

Most of Bailey's highlights are on offense as a wide receiver, but I can see why the staff offered him as a defender. The little two-foot square-up here just before making the tackle (don't allow him to get outside, don't allow him to cut inside) is great. Just watch his feet:

And here, he sheds the block while keeping his edge responsibility. That edge is everything. Whatever you do, don't let him get outside you.

Really good stuff.

The question then: where does he play? He's mostly playing safety here, but I think I might see a linebacker? He's 6'-2", which is tall for a safety, and it feels like that frame is an "add 25 lbs and make him a linebacker" frame. Maybe even an outside linebacker? You don't know how much weight he'll add, but watching this I feel like he's someone who ends up playing at 225 lbs in college. Maybe I'm overshooting that and he's a guy who plays at 210 in college, but given that both of our starting safeties this year (Quan Martin and Sydney Brown) are 6'-0" and 195-200 lbs, I feel like Bailey might eventually end up at linebacker.

Looking at his ratings from the recruiting services, well, I'll try to be nice. No I won't.

Bailey had a 247 profile when he committed. His rating was a 73 (in line with a typical player choosing between WIU and EIU). He then committed to Illinois and in one day his rating jumped from 73 to 82:

I just don't understand the point of rating players if it's going to be so obvious. "Oh, he is going to Illinois now? Give him either an 82, 83, or 84". I'd respect these services SO MUCH MORE if they'd leave the rating at 73. You obviously evaluated a kid and felt that he was an EIU/WIU-level player. So what's wrong with sticking with that after he chooses Illinois? Just stick to your guns! Say he's an FCS athlete going to Illinois and if he busts, collect your donuts.

The whole point of the whole thing is to rate individual players and then compare that collection of players to the other collections of players, both in the conference and nationwide. If you're this transparent with "we're not really rating the player - just the kind of player who usually picks that school", then those rankings mean nothing. I just don't understand why some kid with Illinois & Wake Forest offers gets an LSU offer and jumps from 83 to 92 and I don't understand why some kid with EIU and WIU offers gets an Illinois offer and jumps from 73 to 82. If this is how players are "evaluated", at least try to hide it from us so we can pretend that these recruiting classes are "ranked."

I'll stop. Let's get to Tom Cruises.

I lied - one more paragraph. Maybe two. Many advanced statistics, including Bill Connelly's SP+ which I reference all the time, include recruiting class rankings as part of their projections. And nearly all of them use the 247 Composite. If recruiting class rankings are generally just "players going to these schools get rankings in this range", then how will any of those projections ever catch a team on the rise (like Wake Forest the last five years) or a team that just doesn't have the talent they used to bring in (like Florida State the last five years)?

I know, I know. "The good teams will generally stay good and the bad teams will generally stay bad" is the safest bet in the world. Yes, the rankings are more "default rankings" than anything, but really, for their business model, all that matters is if they identify that Texas A&M had the #16 class one year but then improved to #3 the next year. Catching that Cincinnati is bringing in three times the talent that Texas is bringing in is immaterial. "Just hedge and try to get close" is the new "be as accurate as possible", and I just need to accept it. (I won't.)

NOW I'll get to Tom Cruises. And yes, Matthew Bailey is getting a "these default rankings make me so angry" bump. Good film, Ryan Walters being blown away by the individual workout in January, late bloomer out of nowhere making first team All State - he gets a decent numbers of Cruises.

Matthew Bailey - Three and one-quarter Tom Cruises.


andy on May 10, 2022 @ 08:57 PM

Love it. Those last two clips are on my alma mater's (Rock Island) home field. He seems to be exactly the type of recruit that, if Bielema and team can keep stacking them, will turn the program around. He definitely plays at a different level than most Western Big 6 players.

BexleyIllini on May 10, 2022 @ 10:55 PM

My alma mater, too.

San Joaquin on May 10, 2022 @ 09:54 PM

Dig these posts. Glad to see them back.

tednocella@gmail.com on May 11, 2022 @ 02:01 AM

Bailey will very soon graduate from my alma mater and hopefully in 3-4 years do the same from my #1 alma mater. Pumped to watch a Moline kid play for Illinois and happy coach took this kid - he is exactly the kind of kid who would otherwise wind up at Iowa or Wisconsin and terrorize Illinois for years.

lucasmeducas on May 12, 2022 @ 02:19 PM

We are Moliners! We're from Moline! Haha... love to see a fellow Maroon stay in state!

orngblu on May 11, 2022 @ 02:52 PM

When is the last time we had a kid from Moline? All B1G/All American Brad Hopkins? I hope all of our recruits are stars, but I'm a Moline/UI grad, and biased in rooting for MB. Happy to see the 3.25 TC's! GO ILLINI !!!

lucasmeducas on May 12, 2022 @ 02:24 PM

O-lineman Ben Amundsen signed in the 2003 class but his career was derailed by injuries. Hopefully Bailey is able to stay healthy and have a Hopkins-esque career!

Douglascountyillinifan on May 11, 2022 @ 03:01 PM

Great looking prospect, but if the running back doesn't freeze like a deer in the headlights, on the swing pass, he probably gets the first down. (and possibly a dislocated shoulder.)

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