Trojans safety Dion Bailey, seen hauling in one of his five interceptions… (Otto Greule Jr / Getty Images )
The Las Vegas Bowl could be Dion Bailey’s final game for USC.
The junior safety has said that he will not decide until after Saturday’s game against Fresno State whether to make himself available for the NFL draft or return for his senior season.
But on Tuesday, Bailey sounded as if he were leaning toward leaving.
Asked whether he knew when he would make his decision, Bailey said, “I’ll announce after the bowl game. I don’t want to announce before and be a distraction and all that.”
Last year, immediately after the Trojans’ Sun Bowl loss against Georgia Tech, junior receiver Robert Woods announced he would not return.
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When Bailey was asked whether he would make an announcement immediately after the Las Vegas Bowl, he said he would speak with USC officials, including Athletic Director Pat Haden, to “ask them how they want me to do it, or when they want us to do it, and we’ll handle it that way.”
Bailey, who sat out Tuesday’s practice “resting a little bit,” has played for three head coaches and five position coaches at USC. If he returns, he would play under new Coach Steve Sarkisian and secondary coach Keith Heyward.
Bailey has considered that Saturday could be his final time on the field with the Trojans.
“If am to leave, I definitely want to go out the right way,” he said.
Last year, USC traveled to El Paso for the Sun Bowl. The feel around the team is different with the Trojans headed to Las Vegas.
“Night and day,” Bailey said.
Special-teams coach John Baxter was a Fresno State assistant for 13 seasons, including the last time the Bulldogs played the Trojans.
“We had a really good team,” he said, “and weren’t afraid of them at all.”
Top-ranked USC survived to win, 50-42, at the Coliseum.
USC tailback Reggie Bush amassed 513 all-purpose yards, including 294 rushing and 151 on kick returns. But he averaged only 19.3 yards per kickoff return, did not return one longer than 30 yards and fumbled on one in the fourth quarter, setting up a touchdown that gave Fresno State a 42-41 lead.
“I still have the game plan in my drawer,” Baxter said. “I throw most of them out.”
This season, Fresno State had its hopes for a Bowl Championship Series bowl game end with a loss to San Jose State in the regular-season finale. But the Bulldogs will be up for USC.
“They want to beat the name,” Baxter said, “they want to beat the tradition, they want to beat everything that it stands for.”
Las Vegas plans
Interim Coach Clay Helton said he had been to Las Vegas a few times and that his wife was looking forward to going again.
“She told me I’m supposed to take her out to dinner one time,” Helton said, “And I said, ‘Can we watch third downs while we do it?’ So I don’t know how much fun we’ll be having. But I know the kids will.”
The Trojans will practice Wednesday morning and then will depart for Las Vegas. ... Several players were absent Tuesday because of finals, Helton said, and some players with finals Wednesday afternoon will travel to Las Vegas separate from the team.