Keenan Bailey, Brian Hartline Buckeyes

New Office, Same Purpose For Keenan Bailey

Keenan Bailey is Ohio State’s newest assistant coach, and yet at 27 years old, he is also now one of the more senior members of Ryan Day’s coaching staff.

Bailey is now in his eighth year at Ohio State, but it is his first as one of the Buckeyes’ 10 full-time assistant coaches. He has previously been an intern, a quality control coach, and a senior advisor to the head coach. He has worked with every position on offense for the Buckeyes, but now calls the tight end room home.

And as it would turn out, no matter the previous job duties compared to those he carries now, the biggest difference is the confines.

“Yeah, there’s a closet over there that I used to work out of, and it’s vacant now,” Bailey said recently while taking part in a media session on the practice field at Ohio State’s indoor facility. “That’s the only difference. I got a new title, but my job is the same. I always said, ‘You’ve got to make the Buckeyes better. You’ve got to grow closer to the locker room. You’ve got to outwork that team up north.’ I mean, the job’s the same, the title is different, but I got a new office. That’s the biggest difference.”

Moving into a new office is always a big moment, but it’s not something that Bailey would say has been his favorite moment. For that, it goes back to why he got into this business in the first place — the players.

“You know, everyone was asking me my favorite part about getting this promotion and getting hired, and it was it was hearing from those former players,” he said. “I mean, I couldn’t list all of them but hearing from some of those guys, the Terry Maclaurins and Parris Campbells, and even those defensive guys, I got Jordan Fuller calling me. I mean, hearing from those guys meant way more — no offense media and tweets, I love you guys, but hearing those guys, ‘Hey Kee, I remember when you were running scout team. And now all of a sudden you’ve got your unit.’ That was probably the highlight of it all for my wife and I.”

As to why the job won’t change despite he new title and players, the goal has always been the same. Be prepared. Be helpful. And be forward thinking.

“I think that goes back to just being a graduate assistant,” Bailey explained. “Your job is to take things off the plate of the assistant coach, right? You’re the assistant assistant coach. So I know that movies portray it as the guy running and getting coffee, but it’s everything. It’s ‘I know, you’ve got to speak at a high school next week. Hey, here’s who’s coaching at the high school. Here’s who you should say “hi” to, here’s what you should hit on. Hey, remember that player who played back here in the 80s?’ Just to make you better at your job.

“So I kind of just kept that mindset. I don’t care what my title was each of the last six years. How can I have Brian Hartline most prepared? Ryan Day most prepared? We talk about anticipating and looking around corners for the head coach. I would always try to be one step ahead of Coach Day and give him options. I’m not advising him. I don’t have the answers, but as much preparedness as I can assist him. It’s kind of my job.”

Keenan Bailey has spent the last decade paying his dues and working his way up the Ohio State coaching ladder. He has earned a solid reputation every step of the way. He has had numerous opportunities to leave, but has always stayed.

Ironically, one of the reasons he stayed was so that he could leave. Now that he is one of OSU’s 10 assistant coaches, he can finally get on the road and recruit. Even without being able to hit the road until now, a number of the nation’s top recruits over the years have had positive things to say about Bailey. Now that he can actually get out on the road, it wouldn’t be outrageous to expect more positive reviews coming Bailey’s way.

“No, I can’t wait,” he said. “For the last couple years, I’ve been recruiting, but I couldn’t leave the Woody. So now I’m like, ‘Here we go.’ So now everything’s at my disposal. It’s been awesome. It’s been awesome. I’ve got a lot of enthusiasm, because I’ve been waiting pretty long for this opportunity. I’m just so eager to get going.”

Bailey began his career at Ohio State with the running backs, then went to the receivers, then the quarterbacks, and last year was spending time with the offensive line and the tight ends. There are few corners he hasn’t peeked around for whichever coach he was helping. The hours may have been long, but the odds never were.

“I think it is pretty cool that at each step of the way, I said ‘people over places,'” he said. “And I just so happen to get linked up with Brian Hartline and Ryan Day, and Mick Marotti and Urban Meyer. I went all-in on people and relationships and not ping-ponging around. I know that works out for a lot of people, and maybe it would have worked out for me, who knows, but I bet on those people and it paid off, and I’m just so appreciative of them.”

Spring ball gets started in a little under three weeks. Bailey will finally be in charge of his own position room. When players have issues or they need coached up, they will come to him.

But that won’t be any different than it’s been for the last seven years.

The only difference will be the elbow room.

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