A lot of folks, myself included, have extremely high expecations for Tennessee Vols true freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey.

The hope for UT fans is that Bailey can be Tennessee’s version of Trevor Lawrence or Tua Tagovailoa — the quarterback who is able to take the Vols to an elite level.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Bailey has that potential. He’s clearly a talented kid with a great arm (he’s fourth all-time in high school passing yards in Georgia, behind Lawrence, Deshaun Watson, and Jake Fromm).

But fans and analysts need to be patient with Bailey. This likely isn’t a situation where the young quarterback is going to take the SEC by storm as a true freshman.

And that’s okay. Not every great quarterback has to burst onto the scene like Lawrence or Fromm.

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I think Bailey is more likely to take a Joe Burrow-like path in college (minus the transfer part). In other words, it might take Bailey a couple of years to flourish.

It’s hard to imagine Bailey contributing much in 2020. There are just too many factors working against him. Specifically, the amount of time that Bailey has been forced to miss has put him in a position where he isn’t going to be ready to contribute as a true freshman.

Bailey wasn’t able to go through spring practice thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. He’s also missed several fall practices because of contact tracing. And then when he has practiced, the Vols haven’t had a full squad on the field, which has also hindered Bailey’s development.

This is something that UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt discussed on Monday at the Knoxville QB Club (via 247Sports):

Pruitt: “a guy like Harrison Bailey that normally would’ve taken the same amount of reps every day as a quarterback. We have four quarterbacks that would’ve taken the same amount of reps. Well, he missed the first four practices and he couldn’t help it. He was just in the contact tracing. So we’ve had 14 practices. Now he’s got to participate in 10. He misses the first four, and then, by the time he gets into the practice mode, we don’t have enough players to do two-spot. So you’re sitting there with three or four quarterbacks trying to get the reps that are really set aside for two guys.”

Bailey has the potential to be a star in the SEC. He has the ability to be the best quarterback in the league.

But it’s not going to happen overnight. No one, not even Lawrence or Tua, stepped onto the field and was just great. There was a LOT of work behind that scenes that led to that greatness.

Bailey, though no fault of his own, hasn’t been able to get in a proper amount of work this offseaosn to be great in 2020.

Maybe this is a different conversation if the pandemic doesn’t happen.

But this is the reality for Bailey. Fans need to be patient. If he struggles a bit when he gets his first opportunity, fans (and again, analysts) shouldn’t be quick to write him off. That would be a major mistake.

Featured image via Tennessee Athletic Communications 

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