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West Virginia playmaker Bailey declares for draft

Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
West Virginia receiver Stedman Bailey hauls in a 20-yard touchdown pass in front of Baylor cornerback Joe Williams in the second quarter at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown on September 29, 2012.

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Top of his game

Stedman Bailey single-game career bests:

Receptions 14

Receiving yards 303

Receiving touchdowns 5

Long reception (yards) 87

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Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, 3:46 p.m.
 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia junior Stedman Bailey will forego his final year of college eligibility to enter the upcoming NFL Draft.

Bailey, WVU's career leader with 39 touchdown receptions, ranks second in school history in career receiving yards (3,097) and third in career receptions (202). His 23 touchdown receptions this season led the nation and is No. 3 all-time in FBS history.

“The year I had this year, the numbers I put up, it couldn't get much better,” said Bailey, who indicated scouts project him as a third-round pick.

The NFL Draft is scheduled for April 25-27.

Bailey caught 106 passes for 1,501 yards in 2012. He recorded five consecutive 100-yard games, a school record. He equaled WVU's single-game record with 14 receptions against Oklahoma State.

His 303 receiving yards and five touchdown receptions against Baylor also were school records.

Bailey was one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award honoring the nation's top receiver.

“He had two tremendous years in a row,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He wanted to (turn pro). I didn't try to talk him out of it.”

Bailey said the departures of quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Tavon Austin, who are seniors, contributed to his decision to leave school early.

Smith and Austin, WVU's career leaders in passing and receptions, respectively, are projected first-round selections.

“That played a role, as well,” Bailey said. “Those guys are my buddies. We came in together. The fact that those guys won't be there, which is a whole lot different.”

More important, Bailey cited the recent birth of his son, Stedman Jr., with helping him decide to turn professional.

“I have a responsibility, a major one,” he said.

Bailey will play his final college game against Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29 at Yankee Stadium.

“Weird. Bittersweet. Exciting. A lot of mixed emotions right now,” Bailey said. “I had a lot of great memories at West Virginia.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com.

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