"I came over here to Coahoma CC because I didn't have my ACT score," said Bailey, a Cleveland, Miss., native. "I was being recruited by Ole Miss, USM, MSU, and Auburn out of high school, but I just didn't qualify."
Darone Bailey went the juco route and dove in head first.
"My freshman season was a good experience for me. I took over the starting guard position my true freshman season. There was a lot of pressure on me. I had to come in and make my grades, learn the playbook, and go up against a bunch of older guys. It was kind of tough but it changed me as a person and made me become a man."
There were a couple of matchups Bailey's freshman season that stood out.
"I went up against some All-Americans right off of the bat. I played Bo Tillman out of Co-Lin CC the very first game of my career and did really good against him. That caught some recruiters' eyes, and then I went up against John Jenkins for Mississippi Gulf Coast CC and did not allow a sack. That's when my recruitment really began to pick up. I got a lot of recognition after that and just got better and better the whole year. I made All-State my freshman season."
Big things were expected out of Bailey going into his sophomore season as he received preseason All-America recognition. But then he hit a bump in the road.
"I partially tore my ACL in the second game of the season and missed the rest of the season. I went ahead and had surgery on it on October 12th."
The 6-foot-5, 315-pound lineman committed to Kentucky before the season started.
"I committed to Kentucky on July 1st on my birthday after I took a visit up there. I was hearing a lot from Ole Miss, MSU, South Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn but I really liked it on my Kentucky visit. Plus all of the other schools were waiting to see how I panned out my sophomore year and Kentucky already offered me. So I went ahead and committed."
The former Cleveland Eastside High product was counting down the days before he was going to enroll at Kentucky until he got a phone call from a coach who had been recruiting him for Southern Miss.
"Coach Barney Farrar called me last week and told me that he was at Ole Miss now. He has been recruiting me since the end of my sophomore season. I have known him for three and half years, back when he was trying to get me to greyshirt at Southern Miss when I came out of high school. We have been keeping in contact ever since. I always appreciated that he kept up with me even after I got hurt. He's by far the coach I am closest with, so when he went to Ole Miss I instantly wanted to hear what he had to say. Coach Farrar told me to come up to Ole Miss this past Friday to meet the new staff and just to take a look around."
The relationship between the Ole Miss coach got the Rebels' foot in the door, and Ole Miss took advantage on that visit Friday.
"I just liked everything about it, to be honest. I really like Coach Freeze. He's the main guy. Most importantly, I liked the atmosphere there. They want to win and I want to be a part of it."
What are Ole Miss' plans for Bailey?
"They want me to come in and compete for the right guard and center slots. They plan for me to come in and start. They want me to come in and do an aggressive rehab for my ACL injury. My doctor said my knee is recovering well ahead of schedule, and I should be ready for full contact by the end of the summer."
In the end, why Ole Miss over Kentucky?
"I like Kentucky and coach Joker Phillips. He is a great guy, but I am really concerned what might happen if they do not have a winning season next year. I am not saying they are going to have a losing season next year, but if they do, Coach Phillips could get fired. I would be one of his recruits with a knee injury. I did not want to take the risk of starting over with a new staff. That was the biggest thing for me."
What did the Wildcats say about him switching commitments?
"Coach Summers called, and I am not going to lie, he was pretty mad about it. He talked for a minute and tried to change my mind, but once he knew I was set on signing with Ole Miss tomorrow, he was just mad. It's nothing personal. I just have to look after my best interests and that's what I told him. Plus, my family can now see all of my games instead of just one game a year like they would have if I were up there at Kentucky. Ole Miss is just a better situation for me. I feel good about my decision because at one point Kentucky almost took my scholarship away. They were trying to get me to enroll in the summer to see if my knee had healed in time even though I was graduating in December. I was not too happy about it so they changed their mind and said I could enroll in December. But that just kind of opened my eyes and pushed me towards taking a look around myself. And then it just happened that Coach Farrar goes over there to Ole Miss. It's good to be staying instate and trying to win a championship for your home state school. I can't wait to get started."
Yancy Porter is the Mississippi Scout for Scout.com and he can be reached at email@example.com