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."

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls explode offensively to beat Bucks; Blackhawks battle Lightning tonight on CSN

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls explode offensively to beat Bucks; Blackhawks battle Lightning tonight on CSN

Here are some of the top Chicago sports stories from a busy Sunday: 

Tonight on CSN: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Today on CSN: White Sox battle Dodgers in spring training game

From ‘When It Happens’ to ‘Where It Happens,’ Cubs mining next generation of talent

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson's foot could keep him out until late May

Joe Maddon doesn’t have any concerns about new Cubs closer Wade Davis

Nick Delmonico takes advantage of fresh start with White Sox

Cubs expect Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell to be ready for Opening Night

Owners to consider on and off field changes this week during NFL meetings

From ‘When It Happens’ to ‘Where It Happens,’ Cubs mining next generation of talent

From ‘When It Happens’ to ‘Where It Happens,’ Cubs mining next generation of talent

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs turned Theo Epstein’s “Baseball is Better” speech from his first Wrigley Field press conference into a marketing pitch that might distract fans for a moment from an awful big-league product.          

The 2017 “That’s Cub” ad campaign actually uses what started organically years ago within the farm system, two words that recognized a great at-bat or a heads-up play or a defensive stop.    

Business vs. baseball is no longer the dominant storyline it had been during the early phases of the Wrigleyvile rebuild. Business and baseball are booming for what’s become Major League Baseball’s version of the Golden State Warriors.

It’s just interesting that a franchise valued at north of $2 billion has found so much inspiration on the back fields of this spring-training complex, where staffers you wouldn’t recognize get to work before dawn and players you’ve never heard of dream about their big break.

It’s not just drafting Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. And trading for Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Addison Russell. And hiring a manager obsessed with T-shirts. Baseball operations became a marketing department, selling prospects to Cub fans, the Chicago media and the gurus putting together the rankings – and trying to get buy-in from players who all think they belong in The Show.

Minor-league field coordinator Tim Cossins gets credit for “When It Happens,” a theme that didn’t simply revolve around 1908 and the championship drought. Jason McLeod, the senior vice president who oversees scouting and player development, suggested pairing the W flag with that phrase, and it became this ubiquitous idea around the team.   

“We tied everything into it,” McLeod said Sunday at Sloan Park. “When that time comes, when it happens, can you lay the bunt down? When it happens, can you execute a pitch? Can you go in and pinch-run, steal the base when the time comes?

“The big ‘When It Happens’ is when we win, of course, but for us in (player development), it was about everything that we’re going to be asked to do in that moment: Are you going to be ready when it happens?”

Now what? The defending World Series champs are going with: “Where It Happens.”

A bullet point from Epstein’s bio in this year’s media guide references how his first three first-round draft picks with the Cubs “combined to set up the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series when Schwarber singled and (Albert) Almora pinch-ran, moved to second on Bryant’s deep fly to center, and scored on Ben Zobrist’s double.”

“We’re never going to forget about the importance of young players,” Epstein said. “There’s definitely a lot of talented, interesting prospects still in the system and sometimes they get a little overshadowed because of the star young players we have at the big-league level and how quickly some of those guys moved through the system. But there’s a lot of talent there.

“We’re going to lean on young players beyond our prospects, not just in trades, but also to provide organizational depth and also to serve as the next generation, the next infusion of talent at the appropriate time.

“But it’s a process. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs in development for all these guys. And we have a ton of faith in our player development operation to help these guys along the way.”

So Ian Happ will start the season one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa and see if some combination of injuries and his switch-hitting skills and defensive versatility gets him to the North Side at some point. Or used as a trade chip for pitching, the way third baseman Jeimer Candelario and catcher Victor Caratini appear to be blocked.

Joe Maddon already compared Eloy Jimenez – who can’t legally buy a beer in Wrigleyville yet – to a young Miguel Cabrera or Edgar Martinez. The Cubs are practically begging for someone like Eddie Butler to pitch his way into the 2018 rotation.

By Monday morning, when the full squad reconvenes after a weekend trip to Las Vegas, the Cubs could start making cuts and shaping their Opening Night roster. But the Cubs are going to need so much more than the 25 players who will be introduced next Sunday at Busch Stadium. Maddon used 26 pitchers and 149 different lineups last season. This is “Where It Happens.”

“If this particular group of youngsters were in a different organization that had a greater need right now, you’d probably hear a lot more about these guys,” Maddon said. “But the fact that they’re stuck behind a Bryant and a Russell and a Javy (Baez) and a Rizzo and a (Willson) Contreras and a Schwarber, et cetera, et cetera, it becomes more difficult to really push or project upon these guys.

“But I think these young guys have gone about their business really well. If it’s bothering them or if they’re concerned about that, they’re not showing that. I think they’ve put their best foot forward.”