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Chaney pleased with development of Vols quarterback

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

The start to Harrison Bailey’s career on Rocky Top hasn’t exactly gone according to plan.

Bailey enrolled early back in January, hoping to use spring practice as a way to scratch and crawl his way into the conversation to be Tennessee’s starting quarterback. That didn’t come to fruition, however, as spring practice was canceled after three practices due to COVID-19.

On top of not having a spring, Tennessee was unable to hold a traditional offseason due to COVID restrictions. Then, to top off Bailey’s unfortunate luck throughout the first nine months as a Volunteer, he spent the first week of fall camp in social quarantine because he came in contact with someone who tested positive.

“Harrison didn’t practice for the first couple days,” Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt told the media on Friday. “But at our last practice I thought he had a period there where he really kind of shined taking care of the football. Getting the ball out of his hands.

“Just like any freshman, he needs tons of reps. He needs it at the speed the game is in college. The more reps he gets, the better he’ll get. Just like any other young player. He’s just got to continue to get opportunities.”

Pruitt isn’t the only one who has been impressed with Bailey in the midst of unfortunate circumstance. Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney didn’t hesitate to praise the true freshman quarterback when asked about him. Like Pruitt, Chaney did reinforce that Bailey still has a lot to learn.

“I think Harrison’s going to be a solid football player for us here,” Chaney told the media last week. “It’s the same old thing, just like those young freshman wideouts. They’re all learning everything. Unfortunately, Harrison got here early, but we only got two days of spring. It would have been really nice to have had him all spring to see where he’s at today, where he’s at right now.

“Yesterday he threw some very nice balls for us, so it’s interesting to see how he continues to grow. It’s obvious, some of the concepts he has a grasp on, he plays fast and makes good decisions. Other ones that he’s a little confused on, he plays a little slower. He looks to me just like every other freshman quarterback I’ve had to deal with. They’re just learning and the ones they know, they play quick and fine, but I’m pleased with Harrison as he continues to develop.”

Bailey signed with Tennessee as one of the highest-ranked quarterback signees in program history. The Marietta, Georgia native enrolled early in January, but was only able to participate in three practices before spring practice was canceled due to COVID-19.

On Rivals, Bailey finished the 2020 cycle rated as a five-star, coming in at No. 30 overall and ranking second among pro-style quarterbacks. The Marietta, Georgia QB place just inside the top-100 prospects on 247Sports, coming in at No. 99 overall in their composite rankings and finishing third among pro-style quarterbacks.

The 6-foot-5, 223-pound quarterback joined Tennessee as an early enrollee and participated in spring practices before they were canceled due to the coronavirus. Bailey comes off an impressive senior season at Marietta that capped off a strong high school career. Bailey finished his senior year with 4,674 passing yards, 50 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a 69.8 percent completion percentage on 411 pass attempts. He also ran for three scores and totaled 76 rushing yards. He helped lead Marietta to their first state title since 1967. Bailey threw for 300 or more yards in six games this past season and threw multiple touchdowns in all but three games.

Bailey finished his high school career with over 11,700 passing yards and over 100 touchdown passes. His passing yardage total is fourth all-time in Georgia high school football history, finishing only behind current Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (13,902), former Clemson star Deshaun Watson (13,077), and former Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm (12,745).

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