Football: Romeoville’s hopes ride with Caleb Bailey, Jake BambuleJake Bambule, from Romeoville, throws with his team during a USF 7-on-7 passing league at Memorial Stadium in Joliet, IL on Wednesday June 13, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 25, 2012 5:30PM
Joliet Catholic running back Ty Isaac will play his college football at Southern California.
Caleb Bailey would love to trade places.
“Playing at USC has always been my dream,” the Romeoville senior linebacker said recently during the University of St. Francis 7-on-7 Passing Jamboree at ATI Field at Joliet Memorial Stadium.
“I lived in southern California, actually, in San Jose,” Bailey continued. “We moved to Harrisburg in southern Illinois when I was 7. We were about 30 minutes from the SIU campus.
“Then we came here my freshman year. My grandma has always been really important to us, and when she came here, we followed her.”
And Romeoville gained a marquee football player.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Bailey added his name to the scouts’ radar screen when he stood out at the Proving Ground combine for underclassmen that preceded the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in January at Phoenix. He said he has received “about seven” Division I offers so far, with Toledo, Wyoming, Miami (Ohio) and Western Michigan among them. But if he can impress more college scouts and perhaps add even larger schools to his offer list, all the better.
“Some coaches have advised me to make my decision before games start up in the fall,” he said. “But I don’t find the whole process distracting at all. There’s still time.”
What needs to be done immediately is for Bailey to set a good example for his young, inexperienced teammates as the Spartans, 3-6 in 2011, go about the business of attempting to improve on the 30 points per game they allowed last season. Romeoville will be looking to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 team, under current athletic director Jim Boudouris, dropped a 31-28 first-round decision to highly regarded Pekin.
“Caleb Bailey is a good one,” fifth-year coach Jeff Kuna said. “He’ll be our middle backer. The kids around him really need experience. We know they’ll make some errors here and there in the summer.”
Bailey, an all-conference selection last season after missing most of his sophomore year with an injury, said he has been timed 4.46 seconds in the 40. “But that was awhile ago,” he added.
Regardless of his exact time, what is evident is he can play sideline-to-sideline and he has the instincts to be among the elite.
“I don’t really try to talk to the other guys about where they should be or what they should do when,” Bailey said. “But if they have questions for me, I try to help them.”
The Spartans may be further along at this juncture on the offensive side of the ball. Senior quarterback Jake Bambule gained valuable experience last season, and there is other talent on hand.
“Jake started five games last year and played extremely well the last three so he went out on a high note,” Kuna said. “He grasped the system.
“(Junior) tight end Anthony Love and (junior) tailback Miguel Ford are young players who can contribute. We have good young players. It’s just a matter of getting them experience.”
“We have a team that can put points on the board,” said Bailey, who likely will see spot duty on offense. “Our quarterback (Bambule) is better than ever.”
Bailey will not be the Spartans’ only two-way player as Romeoville bids to move up the ladder in the Southwest Prairie Conference.
“We will have some guys going both ways, probably several on both sides of the ball,” Kuna said. “Early on in the 7-on-7s, we know we are going to make mistakes. The big thing is that each week we make fewer.
“We want to play consistently.”