- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Antwon Bailey has no trouble going incognito on the Syracuse campus.
"People don't even think I play football when I'm around them, unless I tell them or they see me with some gear on," Bailey said.
The senior running back doesn't exactly look the part at a (perhaps generously) listed 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds. He certainly doesn't resemble the Orange's starting tailback from the previous two seasons, the 215-pound bag of hammers that was Delone Carter.
But don't underestimate Bailey. He has been a productive player in his role as a change-of-pace, third-down back, and now he's ready to add his name to the impressive list of great Syracuse backs.
"I get a chance to prove myself," he said. "I don't think any running back coming into college thinks he'll be a change-of-pace guy. It's my turn to be that [No. 1] guy. The running back tradition here is great, so I've got high standards to live up to."
The Orange have had a back produce at least 1,000 yards for the past three seasons, as Carter did it twice following Curtis Brinkley. They also have a veteran offensive line that returns four starters, plus experience at tight end and fullback.
What Bailey lacks in power compared to Carter, he makes up for with quickness and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
"I think we'll be looking to get more misdirection out of our running game," head coach Doug Marrone said.
Bailey has had big games before. He ran for 126 yards on 16 carries in a win over Notre Dame his freshman year. As a sophomore in the win over Rutgers, he put up 181 all-purpose yards. He gained 806 yards in both rushing and receiving last season.
"He makes good reads in the running game, and in the passing game he's a whole different animal," quarterback Ryan Nassib said. "He's extremely quick, he understands pass concepts, runs great routes and has good hands. He's definitely a dual threat."
But Bailey wants to show he's more than just a guy who can get out on the perimeter or catch swing passes. He believes he can run between the tackles and be a workhorse back, too. And in a league where smallish ball carriers like Noel Devine, Dion Lewis and Jordan Todman have found great success, why can't Bailey be the next mighty mite?
"I'm a running back first," Bailey said. "People will see that this year."
He's had doubters before. In high school, he was the Gatorade player of the year in the Washington, D.C., area after running for more than 2,800 yards and 45 touchdowns in his career. But his size scared off college recruiters. His college choice came down to Syracuse or Old Dominion, with Northwestern making a late push to pry him away from the Orange.
"I've been overlooked a lot," he said.
It happens even on his own campus. But if Bailey has the kind of year he's capable of producing, he won't go incognito much longer.