ATHENS, Ga. -- Sterling Bailey felt like a kid on Christmas morning when he arrived at his locker last week on the first day of preseason camp and there was not a non-contact jersey waiting for him.
“I was excited because I wanted to be back out there on the field,” Bailey said after Tuesday morning’s practice. “I haven’t been out there since Dec. 10, so when I stepped foot out there, it was an amazing feeling.”
The redshirt freshman defensive end tore ligaments in his right foot during December bowl practices and missed all of spring practice.
Bailey resumed running only this summer, so he was not sure whether he would be allowed to practice with his teammates when camp opened last Thursday. Initially Georgia’s director of sports medicine Ron Courson preached caution, but finally decided he could practice cautiously from Day 1 of camp.
“Coming in and talking to Ron, he was just telling me at first we were going to take it slow and see how things progressed,” Bailey said. “But when camp came around, I went to go check in my locker box and I had a white jersey and they said, ‘We want to just see how far you can go. We want to push you and steadily watch you during camp.’ ”
So far, so good for Bailey, who has shifted to defensive line after playing outside linebacker last season as a redshirt. Bailey has gained 30 pounds -- up to 290 after arriving at Georgia at 260 last summer -- and hopes to play somewhere around 280 to 285.
Bailey said he is working at both defensive end and tackle and believes he can bolster the Bulldogs’ pass rush from the end position, having already caught defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s attention with his pass-rush skills last season at outside linebacker.
“In my mind, I think it went very well,” Bailey said of his redshirt season. “I showed the coaches that I could play. Now this year is just my mind to give a little more.”