With the NFL Draft a little over two months away, we were fortune enough to sit down with Purdue linebacker and NFL Draft prospect Markus Bailey.
Over the course of his career with the Boilermakers, Bailey registered 324 tackles, 14.5 sacks and six interceptions. Scouts rave about his football IQ and ability to make plays in coverage.
Back in September, Bailey suffered a season-ending injury. Although it was a tough blow for the senior linebacker, he sounds more than ready for the next phase of his football career.
Let’s get this interview started.
The Spun: First off, how’s the knee feeling and what do you want to show scouts leading up to the NFL Draft?
Markus Bailey: My health is looking really good right now. I’m down here in Phoenix, Arizona training at Fischer Institute with physical therapist Brett Fischer. He worked with guys like Myles Jack and Tyrann Mathieu when they were coming back from their knee injuries, and he had great results with them. My agent thought it’d be a good idea for me to come down here too, and the process is going great. Right now, I’m about four months out of surgery and everything is going according to plan.
— Steve Caric (@Caricsportsmgt) January 31, 2020
The Spun: For the fans that didn’t get to see you play that much this year, what would you say an NFL team is getting when they select Markus Bailey?
MB: You’re definitely getting a tough, smart and very instinctive player. I have a high football IQ and I’ve played in a lot of different schemes at Purdue because we’ve had a few coaching changes throughout my career there. I started 40-straight games, so I’m very durable. I hustle to the ball every snap, and I feel like I have good versatility. I can play in a 3–4 defense, I can play edge and I can play out in space. Something that really sets me apart – if you watch from my film from 2018 – is that I’m a really good pass rusher, especially inside going against running backs and interior offensive linemen. So, I feel like those traits set me apart.
The Spun: Now you brought up the 2018 season. You guys had a pretty good season that included an upset win over Ohio State that shocked the college football world, and what makes it really special is that you guys dedicated that win to Tyler Trent. Was that your favorite moment from your college career?
MB: Yeah, you hit the nail on the head there. That’s my favorite moment for a lot of different reasons. Not just for the fact that we upset Ohio State, but because Tyler Trent, who was a huge part of our family at Purdue, had predicted that we were going to win. It was a struggle for him to even get to the game, so it was amazing for our team that we were able to complete that mission for him, fulfill his wishes, and he got to see us win that game. Thinking back to that night, all three phases of the game were hitting on all cylinders from the first snap. Ohio State didn’t lead at all during the whole game. We were just ready to go. That’s probably my favorite moment of my college career, and it probably was my best performance too.
"Markus Bailey PUNCTUATES this upset with a pick-6!"
— Purdue Football (@BoilerFootball) April 4, 2019
The Spun: During the 2018 season you finished with 115 tackles and 6.5 sacks. It’s a stat line that you would see from someone like Luke Kuechly. Do you feel like some people are sleeping on you heading into the draft though?
MB: Of course, I feel like I’m one of the top linebackers. You have to have that confidence, but I’m also realistic and I understand all the factors that have gone into it. I got hurt in Week 2, so there hasn’t been a lot of recent hype or film about me, and there’s concerns about my knee so I understand it. At this point, the only thing I can do is control what I can control. That’s how I present myself in the interviews and how I pass the medicals during this rehab and how I do at my pro day. I’m just going to do everything I can to put myself in the best position. I know I’m talented enough that when I get drafted or if whatever happens, I can make a team.
The Spun: Looking at your skillset, is there one linebacker that you watch film on constantly and try to model your game after?
MB: Yeah, you actually brought him up. Luke Kuechly was someone that I had watched a lot because he got drafted in 2012, so throughout my whole high school career I watched him. Something I really admired about his game – besides the fact that he had like a ridiculous amount of tackles – is that he seemed to always know what was going on and you could tell that he loved the game. He would be calling out plays and making adjustments, and he was very quick, very reactive and very good at coverage too. He got a lot of interceptions, and that’s something that I think linebackers always get stereotyped like ‘Oh linebackers don’t have hands. They can’t catch.’ But I feel like I’ve always been a linebacker that’s more athletic in that aspect because back in high school I played receiver and running back. I always liked the fact that I had really good hands, and he (Kuechly) had a lot of interceptions too. There’s a lot of things to like about Luke Kuechly. That’s obviously why he got the response that he got when he decided to retire.
Earlier this week I spoke to Purdue LB Markus Bailey. We spoke about a bunch of topics, including which linebacker he tries to model his game after. The full interview with Markus will be available tomorrow morning on Big Easy In The Big Apple and The Spun. pic.twitter.com/rNWm0l2ZmA
— Chris Rosvoglou (@RosvoglouReport) February 7, 2020
The Spun: Linebackers are considered the quarterback of a defense. With that said, would you rather face a pocket quarterback like Tom Brady or a dual-threat quarterback like Lamar Jackson?
MB: I think a dual-threat quarterback is harder to game plan for in general because you can have the perfect coverage and it doesn’t matter. If they can get out of the pocket and you don’t have good contain on the rush, then he can just make things happen and be a playmaker. Now, if it’s strictly a pocket passer, you have a better chance of getting after him. You can mix in a lot of multiple blitzes and you can have a good spy there too because you know he’s not going to be that evasive or athletic. I think it’s just easier to game plan for someone that’s more one-dimensional. It’s always harder to game plan for someone that that can hurt you both ways.
The Spun: Drew Brees was on campus for this past season’s Nebraska-Purdue game. What was it like to have him in the locker room?
MB: Well, unfortunately I was in Dallas still recovering from my surgery because I had surgery on Oct 1., but I was able to watch it the same way you watched it. Once I got back, I was able to talk to the guys on the team. Drew Brees is notorious for having that presence and he’s a very motivational guy. He leads by example first, but he’s able to rally the guys around him and I think he did a really good job of giving a very applicable speech at the moment. I think it fired our guys up. I don’t know if it had any correlation with how we played, but we ended up balling out that game and getting a big win that we needed at that point in the season. Drew is just a great ambassador for Purdue, and he’s done so many great things and has had a great career in the NFL. He’s definitely someone that’s very inspirational to me.
His locker room speech is simply inspirational. pic.twitter.com/3m1DjQBtrn
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) November 3, 2019
The Spun: Last question for you, and it’s kind of a two-part question. One, is there a coach out there in the NFL that you’d like to play for because of their defensive scheme? Two, was there a team that you rooted for growing up and are hoping to get drafted by?
MB: It’s kind of a tough question because of my position now. For one, I don’t know every single coach off the top of my head right now. And two, I would just be grateful for any NFL coach and I know I’m going to be able to learn a lot from that person regardless of who it is. I know Dennis Allen is a great defensive coordinator. I’d be very thankful to have an opportunity with the Saints. My defensive coordinator at Purdue was Nick Holt and he was coached under Pete Carroll, so I know the Seahawks run out of a lot of similar things that we did at Purdue. Maybe it’d be an easy transition there. But like I said, I’d be happy to go anywhere and learn from any coach.
As of right now, Bailey isn’t scheduled to run every drill at the NFL Combine. However, he told us that he plans on working out at Purdue’s Pro Day in April.
It’s fitting that Bailey watches a lot of film on Kuechly. Similar to the All-Pro linebacker, the Purdue product has the necessary tools to lead a defense at some point in his NFL career.
Fans will have to wait until the NFL Draft to find out where Bailey will resume his football career.