Khary Bailey-Smith returns as veteran leader in UMass secondary

  • Khary Bailey-Smith will be asked to be a leader and a playmaker for UMass as a fifth-year senior (AP Photo/Stew Milne) AP

Published: 4/8/2016 9:55:36 PM

AMHERST — Khary Bailey-Smith watched from the sidelines last month as his former teammates worked out for NFL scouts at UMass’ annual pro day. It felt odd knowing that most of the players he arrived on campus with in 2012 were moving on with their lives.

“I saw them talking to scouts and it was like ‘wow, they came here and they left,’” Bailey-Smith said shaking his head.

If not for one play in September, he likely would have been joining them. An injury in the final minutes of UMass’ loss to Temple ended his 2015 season abruptly and caused him to take a medical redshirt.

Bailey-Smith is expected to reclaim his starting free safety job in the fall, but isn’t back to full strength yet. He’s been dressing for spring practice, but his participation has been limited.

“It’s good to be back out here. I wish I could go full,” he said. “I’m lucky to have one more season to stick around at this great school with Coach Whip and hopefully see us take another step forward.”

He said his outlook on his injury wasn’t always this sunny.

“Initially, I was really down. It happened on the last play of that game. I thought I was going to have a decent season,” he said. “I just have to make the best out of every situation. I’m glad to be back actually. I don’t think I was mentally mature enough, even last year.”

His improved maturity will be welcomed in a defensive backfield that is young and inexperienced.

“We have a lot of young guys coming in that could have a chance to play,” UMass cornerbacks coach Steve Costello said. “From a leadership standpoint and an athletic standpoint, it’s going to be huge to have him back there. Obviously he can’t play right now, but he’s a little more hands-on with the younger kids, trying to get them to focus and do the things they need to do on and off the field.”

When he was a freshman, Bailey-Smith looked to teammate Darren Thellen for leadership.

“Thellen was always in the right spot making the right decisions,” he said. “I thought one day I could be like that.”

Until Bailey-Smith can model the right way to play safety on the field, he’s trying to portray the right way to carry himself off it.

“Everyone handles themselves really well on the field. When we’re in meetings or just on campus, that’s where my leadership lies until I can get back out there,” he said. “There’s a lot of younger kids on the team now, especially on the defensive side. I just have to make sure that everybody knows their assignments. I feel like I’m there helping coach ’em up in the meetings. They already do a lot of things well, it’s just helping them sharpen up their skills.”

Bailey-Smith has eight career interceptions and is one shy of joining UMass’ top 20. He’s also tied for the program lead with two kickoff returns for touchdowns.

Coach Mark Whipple said the Minutemen missed his play-making last year.

“He’s a guy we know can play and make plays. It really hurt us last year,” he said. “You look at the production. We didn’t really have many interceptions from the safety position last year.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at

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