West Virginia wide receiver coming up big
MORGANTOWN, W.VA. — Stedman Bailey is driven by his critics.
Throughout his career, the West Virginia receiver has faced questions and about his height, strength and ability to be a steady pass catcher.
But the doubters have made this season that much sweeter.
"I've been trying to prove that point all my life," Bailey said. "I wasn't rated as high as I should have been just because of my height. It doesn't matter. I just continue to prove the critics wrong if that's how they feel."
Bailey, a redshirt sophomore, has developed into a dangerous threat for West Virginia and is the Mountaineers' most consistent playmaker.
Last season, Bailey showed promise, starting the season with a five-catch, 72-yard performance against Marshall, but he wasn't consistent. He finished the year with 24 receptions for 317 yards.
It's been a different story this season. Bailey has 57 receptions for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns. He ranks first in the Big East and 14th in the country in receiving yards per game (103.7).
Bailey's also just six yards shy of West Virginia's single-season receiving record set by David Saunders in 1996. He should break the record with his first catch against Pitt on Friday.
"A lot of times, I just sit back and smile from my name going in the record books until anybody else passes me," Bailey said.
More than just the big numbers, Bailey's been a dependable target for quarterback Geno Smith. Bailey's gone for more than 100 yards receiving in seven of 10 games this season, a school record.
"His consistency was one of the things that I questioned coming into the year," WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. "You could tell that he had the ability to make plays and be a good player. Last year, he was very spotty in that."
Bailey is an outside receiver in WVU's offense, a position more commonly played by taller receivers. But at 5-foot-10, the redshirt sophomore can effectively read defenses, stretch the coverage and get behind the safeties.
Bailey understands the stigma about smaller receivers, but it doesn't matter to him.
"I think it's a mind thing for me," he said. "No matter the height or size of the corner I'm going up against, it's just something that's in me that I know he can't mess with me."
Bailey has two more years in this system at West Virginia to improve, and outside receivers coach Daron Roberts believes he'll do just that.
"I tell him everyday I still think he's operating at about 75 percent," Roberts said. "I don't think he's reached his full potential by a large margin. If he's willing to put in the work, we're going to do that."
Bailey said he has plenty of motivation to do that work.
"Sometimes, I watch ESPN a lot and see the receivers they do talk about," Bailey said. "They're always big guys that are NFL-ready because of their size and stuff. It just pushes me to make the same plays they're making to prove I'm here, too."