New Ohio State Tight Ends Coach Keenan Bailey Lauded for Work Ethic, Going Above and Beyond to Help Players

By Dan Hope on December 15, 2022 at 8:35 am
Keenan Bailey

When Cade Stover, Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. were asked about Keenan Bailey on Wednesday, all of them described Ohio State’s soon-to-be tight ends coach as a tireless worker who goes above and beyond to help the Buckeyes’ players.

Even though Bailey has not yet been a full-time assistant coach, he’s made a big impact behind the scenes over the past seven years, arriving at Ohio State as an offensive intern in 2016 and becoming an increasingly influential support staffer ever since. Currently holding the title of senior advisor to the head coach, Bailey’s official duties this season have included analyzing opponents, charting data to help coaches develop strategies and assisting with recruiting.

The Buckeye players, though, say the impact Bailey’s made on them has gone far beyond his basic responsibilities.

“He's always willing to do stuff extra for the players,” Harrison said. “That's one thing I respect about him a lot. Some coaches come here and do their job and that's it, but I'm here at nighttime, and he's here with me, he's watching film or he's gonna help me on the Monarc (pass-catching) machine. He's always helping players.”

Stover said Bailey “has been very instrumental” in teaching him how to play the tight end position. Earlier this year, Stover described Bailey as a “very, very smart mind with football” and said he worked out with Bailey three to four times a week during the summer to hone his skills as a pass-catcher, which propelled Stover to a breakout season in which he has caught 35 passes for 399 yards and five touchdowns. Stover said Wednesday that Bailey is also willing to go the extra mile for his players off the field.

“You can call Kee at three in the morning, two in the morning, whenever you want, he's gonna answer and he's gonna do whatever he needs to do to help you,” Stover said. “Whether you want to get extra work in one night, whether your car's out of gas, anything like that, Keenan’s there. He’s a players’ dude. He’s the type of guy you can put your neck on the line for because you know he's gonna do the same.”

Bailey has also worked closely with Brian Hartline and Ohio State’s wide receivers for the past several years, and Egbuka said there are “tons of examples” of Bailey helping him and his teammates become better at their craft.

“The one that comes to mind is he actually ordered like our receiver room one of those like distraction training things that has like three colors on it, supposed to throw it up and catch like a certain color, whatever color he calls out, so he bought us all that. But that's just like the little stuff he does to help us with our craft,” Egbuka said.

“He's really the hardest-working dude I know in the building. You'll FaceTime him at midnight, he's still here. He's still watching film, getting us ready. But he's also super genuine. He's one of the guys I can honestly say that I can come to him with anything in the building. I feel very safe and confident in being able to disclose any information that I have to to him. So he's been a real blessing in my life. And I feel like a lot of other players would say the same.”

Egbuka and Harrison each said their relationships with Bailey date back to when they were being recruited by Ohio State as high schoolers and that the relationships they built with him was one reason they chose to become Buckeyes.

“He was a down-to-earth, really genuine person,” Egbuka said when asked why he connected with Bailey as a recruit. “He's gonna hold you to a high standard, probably higher than you hold yourself to. So that's something I've always been fond of, because I'm trying to take my game to levels that I haven't reached yet. So he's surely helped me accomplish that.”

Harrison said he talked to Bailey a lot during the recruiting process and that Bailey, along with Hartline, helped him learn the playbook quickly when he arrived at Ohio State as a freshman.

“He wanted me to be great,” Harrison said. “Same thing with Coach Hartline, they want you to be great. They want you to be great players, they want you to be the best versions of yourself. So that's probably one thing that stuck out to me about them too.”

“He's really the hardest-working dude I know in the building. You'll FaceTime him at midnight, he's still here.”– Emeka Egbuka on Keenan Bailey

Stover hasn’t yet decided whether he will stay at Ohio State for another year to lead Bailey’s first tight end room, as he said he is currently focused on trying to beat Georgia in the Peach Bowl rather than on whether he will enter the 2023 NFL draft. That said, Day’s decision to promote Bailey certainly won’t hurt Ohio State’s chances of convincing Stover to return for a fifth season.

“We've developed a very, very close bond over the last couple of years here, especially over this last year,” Stover said. “I'm just super happy for him.”

While Ohio State confirmed Saturday that Bailey will be promoted to tight ends coach to replace outgoing offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, Ryan Day wasn’t ready to formally discuss the promotion during his press conference Tuesday, preferring to save that until after the season is over. But Day made it clear that Bailey has already brought a lot of value to Ohio State in his current role and that he believes Bailey’s rise in the coaching profession is only just beginning.

“He's an excellent coach,” Day said. “He's a really sharp young man who's going to do unbelievable things in his career. And the relationships he's built over time with former players, current players, recruits and family has been excellent. And you know, Keenan’s turned down a lot of opportunities to go other places over the last couple of years, and he's stayed here and been a huge help. So he's got a very bright future ahead of him.”

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