Dacoven Bailey sees a new team attitude in second year with Rutgers
A week before National Signing Day in 2016, not many people outside of Pilot Point, Texas knew the name Dacoven Bailey.
But on January 31st, Rutgers offered the do-it-all athlete from a small town of just over 4,000 residents. A day later, he pledged to the Scarlet Knights and made it official with a signature on February 3rd.
247 Sports had Bailey ranked at the 2,560th player in the nation and his only other offers being Division II teams Tarleton State and Central Oklahoma.
If not Rutgers, one of those two schools was likely the answer for Bailey.
"I was just gonna go to a DII school, try to get good highlights there and try to transfer to a Division I school," he said.
The now-sophomore wide receiver knew he had Division I talent coming out of high school, but said that taking his standardized tests late and not going out to enough camps did not yield him the offers he wanted.
In high school, Bailey was the clear-cut star of his team, playing quarterback, running back and returning kicks, but did not play a lot of wide receiver. As a result, he resorted to special teams to get himself on the field as a freshman last season, although he did earn a start at wide receiver against Penn State.
Wide receivers coach Jafar Williams expects Bailey to make a bigger impact on offense this season with plenty of spots open at wide receiver.
"He played really well for us on special teams (last season). He's a guy that we definitely need to rely on not only as a receiver but in the kicking game," Williams said. "He's had a great camp. Physically, he's a lot stronger. But he also understands the (wide receiver) position a lot more."
Bailey has put in a lot of work to make himself a threat as a slot receiver. He echoed his coach's statements, saying that he has worked a lot on reading and understanding defenses.
But the work doesn't stop there.
"I've been working on my pad level, getting in and out of my breaks, trying to loosen my hips," he said.
Behind star Janarion Grant on the depth chart, Bailey doesn't project as an every-down player, but will still make an impact on a much-improved offense.
Special teams, though, is where Bailey will continue to be one of the most important players on the field. He wants to be on the field. He wants to make an impact.
"(I'll do) whatever it takes to win, whatever takes to make my team successful. If that's holding the ball for the PAT, if thats running down on kickoff return, whatever it takes honestly, it really doesn't matter," he said.
At the same time, his increased role on offense should help a unit that ranked 128th out of 128 teams in the FBS last year.
There is a laundry list of things that Rutgers can improve in 2017, but Bailey has already noticed that the attitude around the program is changing for the better. And that's important.
"The whole demeanor is different. (The team) doesn't wanna repeat what happened last year. Everyone is changing," he said. "If I'm having a bad day, my teammates are going to encourage me. Just having a positive attitude."