Is Aaron Bailey the next Tim Tebow?

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Is Aaron Bailey the next Tim Tebow?

People who criticize Tim Tebow for what they perceive as his over-the-top religious beliefs or his inability to complete forward passes in the NFL often forget that he was the top-rated quarterback in the nation coming out of high school and had a legendary college career at Florida.

Bolingbrook's Aaron Bailey hasn't forgotten.

"I like Tim Tebow. I liked him when he was at Florida," Bailey said. "That's why I wear number 15, Tim Tebow's number. I like his character on and off the field. He's the same type of quarterback I am. I like how he doesn't say no, how determined he is, how he doesn't let anyone or anything bother him, how he always puts Christ first, how he ministers, how he isn't ashamed to talk about it."

Bailey, who quarterbacked Bolingbrook to the Class 8A championship last year, is a very religious person. He never forgets "to give God the glory" whenever he scores a touchdown. Last season, he accounted for 40 touchdowns while amassing over 3,000 yards rushing and passing.

The 6-foot-2, 217-pounder hopes to do as well or even better in 2012 as he seeks to lead Bolingbrook to another state title. And then he will take his act to Illinois, where he is determined to become the catalyst for new coach Tim Beckman's program.

Bailey had more than a dozen scholarship offers, including Notre Dame, Northwestern and Wisconsin. But he chose Illinois over Nebraska "because I liked how they trusted me as a quarterback. I want to be a quarterback in college and that's what they recruited me for. Others recruited me as a wide receiver or athlete."

He is the stereotypical and prototypical quarterback who was born to run a spread offense, what Dan Persa and Zak Kustok were to Northwestern, what Donovan McNabb was to Syracuse, what Terrelle Pryor was to Ohio State, what Tim Tebow was to Florida, what Tommie Frazier was to Nebraska, what Juice Williams was to Illinois.

"He has speed (4.4), size and strength, what colleges look for in spread quarterbacks," Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow said.

"I feel I can fit into any offense, but the spread is pretty good," Bailey said. "I love to break down defenses, go to their weak points. I love to throw on the run. But I made a reputation as a runner because of the style of offense we run."

Ivlow's only advice to Bailey: "Just make your first read and go from there," Ivlow told his quarterback. "If you focus on your second read, you'll mess up. Don't over-think it."

In Bolingbrook's 21-17 victory over Loyola in the state final, Bailey rushed 33 times for 149 yards and scored on runs of 33 and 10 yards and completed 8 of 13 passes for 140 yards.

"I'm a dedicated guy who loves to win. I'm motivated. I don't take failure as an option," he said. "I read the end or outside linebacker. If they crash, I may pull the ball or give it to my running back. I love it when I'm in the open field, when I can decide if I want to cut back or keep running. I like the open field where I can be very creative."

Bailey believes he can be even better in 2012 than he was in 2011. And he can't wait until summer camp in June when he will begin working out with his teammates, particularly fullback Jaden Huff, running back Omar Stover and receivers Brandon Lewis and Chandler Piekarski.

"We're more hungry this year," he said. "We know every team will play against us like it is the state championship game. For us, it is very important to win two state titles in a row. That's our ultimate goal."

Individually, Bailey insists he has "a lot of improving to do," specifically his pocket presence. "I want to stay in the pocket and deliver the ball rather than run. I want to be a better player and work harder and have fun and not over-think things. In football, you can't over-think things. I want to have fun, just like last year," he said.

Bailey said he also can't wait to begin playing for Beckman at Illinois. Nebraska might have been his first choice in the early going but Bailey, his mother and stepfather clearly were impressed by Beckman.

"We prayed about (his decision) as a family," he said. "I felt comfortable about it. Why not play in your home state? It's a great school. I like (Beckman's) demeanor, his attitude, how he gets fired up. I can't wait to play for him. The spread offense is fit for me. I want to make my own name. I think we'll have fun and win some games."

Don Cooper remembers what made Mark Buehrle so special 

Don Cooper remembers what made Mark Buehrle so special 

Mark Buehrle didn’t have the kind of attributes found in most of the dominant pitchers of the post-steroid era. He was a 38th-round draft pick with a fastball that, on a good day, would scrap the upper 80’s. 

On Saturday, Buehrle will become the third pitcher to have his number retired in White Sox history, joining Ted Lyons (No. 16) and Billy Pierce (No. 19). For Don Cooper, who was Buehrle’s pitching coach from 2002-2011, it’s not hard to see why the St. Charles, Mo. native’s name will forever be a part of White Sox history. 

“Reliable, consistent, dependable, winner, good guy, unflappable, these are words that come to mind when I think about him,” Cooper said. 

Cooper was flooded with plenty of memories of Buehrle during the dozen minutes he spent chatting with the media on Friday. He said he learned a lot from working with Buehrle, watching him fill up the strike zone and induce early, weak contact while working at a brisk pace. One of Cooper's memories that stood out was this one:

“I can remember in the bullpen, he’d be warming up, he’d throw about 10 pitches,” Cooper said. “He’d look at me, I’d look at him. He wasn’t throwing very good. He turned to me and said, ‘Come on, let’s go, this isn’t going to get me any better.’”

But that was Buehrle — “In many ways, you could just wind him up and you’re throwing him out there every five days,” Cooper said. He battled through days where he didn’t have his best stuff — not that his stuff was electric to begin with — and turned in 14 consecutive years with 200 or more innings. 

Buehrle, of course, threw a no-hitter in 2007 and a perfect game in 2009, and along with save in Game 3 of the World Series represent some of the crowning achievements of his career. Cooper was happy to have been a part of it from his perch on the White Sox bench. 

“I think he was blessed,” Cooper said. “He was given a lot of gifts. The sinking fastball, the changeup, the cutter. His curveball, by scouts’ assessments, would probably be rated an average curveball. But as time went and as his stuff went down, we started to use that more. When he was at his best, we would throw about 8-10 of those. But as he started losing his stuff we had to mix more of those in. And listen, the career he had, his number being retired, the kids, his family — blessed. He’s been a blessed guy.” 

Cubs' bats go silent in shutout loss to Marlins

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USA TODAY

Cubs' bats go silent in shutout loss to Marlins

MIAMI – This is a 37-36 team dealing with injuries near the front of the rotation (Kyle Hendricks), the middle of the lineup (Ben Zobrist) and the heart of the defense (Jason Heyward) while a World Series legend (Kyle Schwarber) gets a few days to clear his head before reporting to Triple-A Iowa.

The Cubs are the defending champs, but they really don’t have much of an identity beyond that, unsure what they’re going to get from one night to the next and still searching for that sense of rhythm 45 percent into the season.

Friday’s 2-0 loss to the Miami Marlins followed a familiar pattern for a team that’s been at the .500 mark at 15 different points this season and has been shut out six times already. 

Pitching and defense became the backbone for a World Series team, but the Marlins needed only three hits to score two runs (one earned). John Lackey gave up his 21st home run – he allowed 23 in almost 190 innings last year – in the third inning when Giancarlo Stanton launched an 83-mph pitch 458 feet beyond Marlins Park’s garish pink-flamingos-and-palm-trees sculpture.   

The night after blitzing Miami and scoring 11 runs, the Cubs managed only six hits against right-hander Jose Urena and three different relievers.