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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 6 52 to make sure he never gave up the pop pass. Any time in practice, if it was a pop pass, he was on it. … He will never forget that mistake because he never wants to do it again. That's the type of person he is." It's a reason Bailey's as good as he is. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Columbus, Ohio native has taken over as Pur- due's best player and there's not really a valid dissenting argument. The numbers tell much of the story, with 89 tackles last season, including 11 for loss and seven sacks (tied for sixth-most in the Big Ten), plus an interception, a fum- ble forced and one recovered. And he did all of that while playing out of position. Because Purdue had inside linebackers Ja'Whaun Bentley and T.J. McCollum, neither of whom were suited to move, Bailey's versatility forced him to the strongside. Although he excelled there, Purdue will play him back on the inside, at weakside linebacker, this season. "Markus is, first of all, a fantastic football player," Holt said. "We've had to play him at outside 'backer, which is something that he was not opposed to. He's a fantastic out- side 'backer. He did great. He's a total team guy, but that's Adding Up The dumbbells in Purdue's new football weight room go up to only 200 pounds. That's more than enough for most people, but most people aren't Big Ten football players, and only one is Markus Bailey. In mid-June, the junior linebacker, as part of his off- season goal to increase his strength and explosiveness, took on the 200s, pulling up eight reps on each side in kneeling one-arm rows. It was attention-getting even for the biggest, strongest Boilermakers, like teammate Kirk Barron, a 300-plus-pound offensive lineman. "He doesn't look like a middle school middle lineback- er anymore," Barron said, laughing. Not even close. Bailey's determination to get gain weight and get big- ger — he wants to be because of his move to inside line- backer — has paid dividends. As of mid-June, the 6-foot- 1 Ohio native was already up about 10 pounds into the mid-240s, providing a recognizable difference to those who hadn't seen him since the spring. Back then, he was playing in the 230-235 range, which was about the same as his last couple seasons, but not ideal for being an ev- eryday inside-the-box linebacker. On the weakside, Bailey will be tasked with facing off with offensive linemen, either using his quickness to avoid them or his strength to rip away from their blocks. He's great at the former, but it's that latter that he says he need to improve. "I didn't want to have the thing with being smaller any more," he said. "I want to move as well as I did, but I want to be pretty stout when I'm in the middle. I don't want to be seen as an undersized 'backer. I know I'm a little short for a prototype, but I don't want to be like 230 out there getting swallowed up by those big guys." Last season, Bailey played on the strongside, where his assignments were more varied. Against some oppo- nents, he was tasked with following tight ends in cov- erage; others, he could attack the line of scrimmage in support of run defense. And because of the differing assignments from week to week, Bailey fluctuated his weight intentionally, trying to slim down a few pounds to 230 when Purdue was playing a more wide-open offense but increasing to 235 against a run-heavy team. He'll shoot for about 240 this season. In the spring, he increased his caloric intake — he already ate about whatever he wanted, he said, but had always struggled to gain beyond 235 — and saw the results. And then he started pushing more weight, like churning out those 200-pound dumbbells. Now, Bailey hopes to be the perfect combination of speed, strength and instincts, so that he can elevate his game yet again. "(Even) for Markus to play how (well) he plays, there was a bit of a disconnect between what we saw in here (in the weight room)," director of football strength and conditioning Justin Lovett said. "We thought to our- selves, 'Man, if that ever comes together, if he ever starts clicking, you'd have something really special.' This year, so far, with the winter and the spring he put together and May, yeah, there's something there. Big, giant step for- ward for him." — Kyle Charters

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