What goes good with possum? Well, if you ask Canes defensive end Allen Bailey, he'll tell you just about anything.
"It has its own taste - you can't really describe it, have to taste it for yourself," said Bailey, who got his first taste of quarterback last Saturday with two sacks in a win against UCF. "I'd eat it usually with collard greens and rice at home."
Bailey (6-4, 285) isn't quite like any other defensive end I've ever met at The U. By now, many of you must know his story. Bailey grew up on Sapelo Island, a tiny island off the coast of Georgia. He used to have to take a boat each morning to get to school. He grew up hunting animals for dinner, things like alligator, raccoons and wild hogs. Physically, he's a freak. If you walk into the UM weight room, it's Bailey's picture that leads all lineman (offensive and defense) in strength, speed and vertical categories. His body fat percentage is a word lean.
And up until last Saturday, Canes fans had been eagerly waiting for him to do something for the team. It looks like he's finally on his way to having the career Canes fans have hoped for. After spending his freshman season at linebacker, Bailey told us Tuesday he wished he would have made the switch to defensive line quicker. Instead, he waited until last spring. Once he did, it looked like he was headed to being the game-changer Miami sorely needed on defense. Then, he tore his pectoral muscle in offseason conditioning. He missed most of fall camp. But now, he appears ready to help this football team.
Miami certainly needs him. Before last Saturday's five-sack output, the Canes defense wasn't applying nearly enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The secondary was getting picked apart. Against UCF, Bailey got to the quarterback several times and made hits even though the ball got away. "My pec is fine," Bailey said Tuesday. "I've got about 85 to 90 percent of my strength back in my arm. I felt very comfortable last week coming off the injury and everything, felt it was about time for me to have a breakout game."
Where he ends up playing on the defensive line in the future remains to be scene. With Marcus Forston injured last month, Bailey moved inside to defensive tackle on several third downs against Texas A&M. When he is in the middle, his size and speed is overwhelming. It's the same story on the outside. "He's a big guy, massive," said tight end Dedrick Epps, who lines up against Bailey on occassion. "You just know you have to bring it all or you'll end up on your back. He's just all-around big. Big arms, broad shoulders. He stands about 6-4. He looks at me eye-level and outweighs me by about 30 pounds. I know when I line up against him, I got to be quick off the ball and come with all my strength."
Bailey's legend could grow at UM quickly, especially if he keeps feasting on opposing quarterbacks. But there are some legends -- about his past -- he talked to us about Tuesday we can now confirm as either true or false.
The first, did he kill an alligator with his bare hands? Partially true. "Mama had told me to go outside and kill [the alligator] because it was in a ditch outside and my cousins and nephews were outside," Bailey said. "I shot it. [Laughter] I didn't do all that."
What about snakes? "No. That's not true." How about the hunting? "A few wild hogs," Bailey said. "Those taste different. The meat tastes different, its more wild."
Bailey has already brought a few teammates back home with him during summer and spring breaks. No word yet if anyone has tried the possum or wild hog. But you can count Dedrick Epps and myself as two guys who would politely decline. "Where I'm from we see possums running sewar holes and stuff like that," Epps said. "I wouldn't be the one to try it. But if that's him, that's him. I'd help him hunt it for the joy of hunting. I don't know about eating it."
> Count Javarris James as one of the many believes on this UM team who knows Duke is a much improved team. When asked for his assessment of the game on Tuesday, this is what Baby J had to say: "Those guys are a lot better they've been in the past. This isn't the same Duke team everyone used to push over and run over back in the day. We're not taking these guys lightly. We know its going to be a tough game going to their place. We're getting prepared just like it's a Florida State or a Florida game."
> Miami's No. 1 recruiting Class in 2008 is already paying dividends this season. There are 11 true freshman on UM's two-deep chart. Two, linebacker Sean Spence and receiver Travis Benjamin, are already on their way it seems to All-American status. Both were selected at the halfway point of the season to Rivals.com's Freshman All-American team.
> UM coach Randy Shannon talked Wednesday about how close he came to actually signing with Tennessee and not the University of Miami. Shannon was actually recruited to Tennessee by Duke coach David Cutliffe, who was an assistant at Tennessee at the time. Cutliffe told reporters in his press conference this week Shannon impressed him when he saw him dunk a ball from the foul line. I asked Randy if he could still dunk today. "I'll pull a muscle today and go on injured reserve," Shannon responded. When asked if he might be able to give the Sun-Sentinel's Shandel Richardon a game -- Shandel's the best baller among all the reporters covering the Canes -- Shannon quipped, "I don't know. Shandel's got skills it looks like." I got Shandel by 6 easy.
> INJURY REPORT FOR DUKE: Thursday's injury report did not feature any major surprises for the first time this year. Here's how it read - Probable: OL Chris Barney – Leg, RB Damien Berry – Leg, LB Glenn Cook – Head, RB Javarris James - Leg. Questionable: OL Joel Figueroa – Back, WR Leonard Hankerson – Leg, DL Dwayne Hendricks – Head, OL Reggie Youngblood - Leg. Out: RB Lee Chambers – Leg, LB Jordan Futch – Head, , LB Colin McCarthy – Shoulder, DL Eric Moncur - Leg, S Randy Phillips - Leg, S Vaughn Telemaque – Arm; Surgery/Out for Season: WR Tommy Streeter – Arm, WR Kendal Thompkins - Shoulder.