Dennis Bailey sees the endless possibilities of Manual.
The Rams defensive coordinator was promoted to head football coach at the Peoria Public Schools Board meeting on Monday.
Bailey replaces veteran coach Dan Fauser, who returned for two seasons after a five-year absence. Fauser coached Manual for 21 seasons before. Bailey was a line coach for a year before taking over the defense in the last three.
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“I know there are challenges here, but I also know there is potential here,” the 1999 Peoria High graduate said. “…I saw it was great there. I don’t know how close I can get to it, but I know the potential is always there to do good things because we have good athletes.
Learn from mentors
Bailey, who is a teacher’s aide at Manual, says Fauser served as his mentor during their seasons together. He describes himself as “intense”, but Fauser would remind Bailey to keep a cool head. This is advice he intends to follow in his coaching tenure.
“You have to be fair to everyone involved,” Bailey said, “not just your best player or good player, but you have to be fair to the game of football when it comes to that stuff.
“It was a good tool to grow over the last two years, sitting and watching it taught me a lot.”
Fauser and another former Manual head coach, Ed Cagle, allowed Bailey to lead college scouts interested in Manual players. Bailey played at Rock Valley College in Rockford for two years before moving to Concordia University (Wisc.). There he was a member of the 2006 Hall of Fame team that finished 10-1.
These college experiences helped Bailey learn about the recruiting process.
“They both gave me free rein to handle some of it,” he said. “It’s almost like it’s more who you know than what you know. I’ve made connections since I’ve been in football.
What manual has on the ground
Five or six starters are expected to return on both sides of the ball for the Rams this fall. Lots of talented guys, including Journal Star honorable mention wide receiver Jerome Cranford, are graduating — but both lines will feature veterans.
Jeremiah Clements, a 6-foot-3, 315-pound future senior, and Nas King, a 5-foot-11, 250-pound incoming junior, will play leading roles.
Manual, which opens the season against Peoria Notre Dame at Peoria Stadium, is gaining momentum in the offseason. In Week 9, Manual beat Richwoods, 22-20 for straight series wins.
“It was huge,” Bailey said. “People who know football here know that Richwoods is traditionally the powerhouse. … It was just a great accomplishment.
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Manual went 1-8 overall last season, including 1-7 in the Big 12 conference. Four of those games were decided by 14 points or less, including a two-point loss to Champaign Central in Week 6.
Winning these close matches will be key going forward.
“We feel like we could play in this conference,” said Bailey, whose team will visit 2021 Class 5A finalist Kankakee in their only non-conference game of Week 4.
One of the factors in the success of manual football will be community support, according to Bailey. Manual hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since 2010, when he finished the season 6-4 and lost in the Class 4A first round to Pontiac.
It was also the last time the program posted a winning record.
“The whole south side is buying into what we’re trying to do here,” he said of what it will take for Manual to turn the tide. “We can rebuild this thing.”
Adam Duvall is a sports reporter for the Journal Star. Email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.