by Garrett Mitchell
B.J. Bailey knew he would have to wait his turn. Woodruff’s starting quarterback didn’t realize, however, that his turn would come as soon as it did.
Bailey, as a sophomore in 2017, was called up from the junior varsity team after a rash of devastating injuries during the Wolverines’ ill-fated season left star quarterback Keegan Halloran and his backup, Tyler West, relegated to the bench.
Bailey held his own, even as the Wolverines limped to a 2-8 finish, their worst mark since the 2000 season. Halloran returned as a senior, with Bailey serving as his understudy. But with Halloran now playing at Presbyterian College, Bailey finally has his shot as the starting quarterback.
So far, so good.
Bailey orchestrated the Wolverines’ thrilling come-from-behind victory over Chesnee during the season opener, leading two fourth quarter touchdown drives in the final six minutes. It was his earlier than expected experience that he played on to get him through.
“It showed me that I had a lot of growing to do as a quarterback,” said Bailey of his sophomore season. “I had a lot to learn. Over the summer this year we worked a lot on technique and footwork to be ready to go into the season and win a lot of ballgames.”
The athleticism has always been there for Bailey. At times a three-sport athlete, Bailey played a stint in the Woodruff basketball program before stepping back to concentrate on football and baseball full time. The 6-foot-1 southpaw is dynamite on the diamond and this past season struck out 16 batters in a complete game effort against top five ranked Mid Carolina. As a reserve during the 2018 football season, he also rushed for two touchdowns of over 50 yards, showcasing his ability to make plays happen with his legs.
His cannon arm shines on the football field as well. Against Chesnee, Bailey connected on a 62-yard strike to fellow senior Omarion McKelvin, hitting the Wolverines’ star wideout in stride to tie the score late.
McKelvin, along with a cast of other talented playmakers, Bailey says, has helped ease his transition into a full time starting role.
“Having those guys helps out a lot,” Bailey said. “It helps me because they know what they’re doing and they’ve been on the offense long enough to know what is expected to play at this level of football. It helps a lot because all I have to do is get them the football and they know what to do with it.”
Woodruff head coach Bradley Adams also had high expectations for Bailey entering the season, placing his full trust in his new signal caller. Adams knew Bailey had to be his own player and create his own mark on the program rather than try and pick up where the decorated Halloran had left off.
“B.J. has done everything we have asked him to do as our quarterback,” said Adams. “We want B.J. to be B.J. He is not Keegan and we want him to build his team around what he does and not what someone else has done. He has put in a lot of time and effort to be the best he can be.”
That effort and attention to detail continues to pay off. Bailey added that he worked tirelessly to improve his game during the offseason and the results were manifested in an 11 for 18, 151-yard effort against Chesnee.
Bailey is aware of those improvements in his game.
“My footwork and drops and technique on being able to throw the ball and get back in the pocket with my footwork has actually helped a lot in the game,” he noted were his biggest offseason strides.
For certain, if Bailey maintains his current level of play, the Wolverines can look forward to another successful season. Bailey and his teammates wouldn’t have it any other way.