Eric Wolford considers Zack Bailey very coachable.
It’s just that Wolford, South Carolina’s offensive line coach, has to do that coaching at a high volume sometimes to get the attention of Bailey, the Gamecocks junior right tackle.
“He responds to hard coaching,” Wolford said. “I think he likes when I yell at him, he really does. He likes to see how high he can get my blood pressure. I said, ‘As long as you take care of my kids and family if something bad happens, that’s fine.’”
Bailey, a 6-foot-6, 311-pound Summerville native, played on the interior of the offensive line his first two years of college but was moved to right tackle by Wolford, who was hired in January to coach the Gamecocks offensive line. Bailey was a finalist for South Carolina’s Mr. Football award at Summerville High School and was considered one of the top prep offensive linemen in the country at the time, but he remembers the coaching being loud even then.
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“All my high school coaches would probably say the same thing (as Wolford),” he said. “Sometimes you need that. Sometimes you get too comfortable, and it puts a little pep in your step. At the end of the day, it’s all just trying to make you better.”
Bailey already is considered the Gamecocks’ best lineman. He was named to the SEC coaches’ preseason all-conference team on the third team, and Wolford has spent most of the preseason pushing harder because of that.
“You have to keep pushing Zack because right now he doesn’t have consistent competition exactly at the level it needs to be,” Wolford said. “I have to constantly keep a foot on him and make sure that he knows that he’s not entitled to anything.”
That includes a starting spot. Bailey wouldn’t confirm that he’ll open the season at right tackle when the Gamecocks take on N.C. State on Sept. 2 in Bank of America Stadium.
“That’s not for me to decide. That’s coach’s decision not mine,” Bailey said. “I am going to come out there and do my best every single day.”
After playing left guard last year, he spent the spring retraining his mind to an opposite stance and the opposite directions for each play call.
“Everything is reversed,” he said. “You hear them and you think, ‘I do this. No, wait, flip it.’ You just have to flip it around.”
The fall has been spent cleaning up the little things, Bailey said.
“I love (the new position) right now,” he said. “I’m enjoying the process. Enjoying learning everything, trying to take everything in as much as I can.”
Bailey does not dismiss the idea that this could be his final season at South Carolina. Depending on how his transition from guard to tackle goes, he could be the Gamecocks’ top professional prospect at the end of the year even with one year of eligibility remaining.
“It’s every kid’s dream to play in the NFL. That’s a no-brainer,” he said. “If I have the chance, I would love to. At the end of the year, we will kind of see where things are. I love it here. I love the guys I work with every single day. I love the coaching staff. There’s something special going on here. I see it, and everyone else sees it. Just take one step at a time.”