No one is ever more popular on a college campus than the backup quarterback.
The backup quarterback always represents hope and the possibility of stardom.
That’s the case with Tennessee Vols sophomore quarterback Harrison Bailey and a large number of UT fans.
Michigan transfer Joe Milton got the nod as the Vols’ starter for the season-opener against Bowling Green. He started the next week against Pittsburgh, too. When Milton went down in the first half of the Pitt game with an injury, Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker took the reigns of the offense.
Hooker played well in relief of Milton, but it feels like the Tennessee offense could perform at a higher level with better quarterback play.
That’s where Bailey comes into the picture.
Bailey, a former five-star recruit who had high school numbers on par with Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, is the great unknown. Bailey played in six games as a true freshman in 2020, but he’s yet to see any action in Heupel’s offense.
Charlie Burris, my co-host on the Big Orange Podcast, tackled the “what’s the deal with Harrison Bailey?” question this week. I’d recommend checking that article out.
Reflecting on what Cam Newton said about Harrison Bailey in 2016
Earlier this week, I took some time to read some articles about Bailey’s high school days. I wanted to get a feel for what the Bailey hype was like a few years ago, before the view of him as a quarterback was clouded by what’s happened at Tennessee over the last two years (recruiting scandal, fired coaches, poor quarterback play, etc).
I came across some comments that former NFL MVP quarterback Cam Newton made about Bailey after seeing the young quarterback at a seven-on-seven camp in 2016.
Newton was impressed by Bailey, who was an eighth-grader at the time and sought out the future Vol quarterback.
“So you’re the eighth-grader that everyone has been talking about?” Newton asked Bailey in disbelief.
Bailey, who was busy dissecting teams loaded with talented soon-to-be juniors and seniors, calmly replied, “Yes, sir.”
“He told me, ‘You’re pretty good, but you got to keep working to get better week in and week out,'” Bailey remembers.
Bailey was at the camp with some other big names, but he was the kid that Newton seemed to be most impressed with.
“There was some heat there that weekend,” Richards recalls. “You had guys like [5-star Stanford quarterback commit] Davis Mills, [5-star Georgia quarterback commit] Jake Fromm and other studs out there.
“Cam walked up to [Bailey] and couldn’t believe the kid was about to be a freshman.”
It was obvious from an early age that Bailey had the “it factor”.
Is he still that same quarterback?
Tennessee fans would certainly love to know the answer to that question.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to know for sure until we see Bailey on the field running Heupel’s offense.
Featured image via Randy Sartin–USA TODAY/Junior Baker