Sleeper agent: The identity of Bakari Bussey

The Ohio Bobcats receiving corps has been one of the most talented squads in the Mid-American Conference over the past few seasons, birthing potential NFL talent such as Taylor Price, Terrence McCrae and LaVon Brazill, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. This year, the group of wide outs had a lot to live up to, but their depth and extra-curricular work has kept the passing game afloat despite a plethora of injuries.

Bakari Bussey gets skipped over when you look at the depth of Ohio’s receiving corps, but as a sleeper agent, he does whatever it takes to get the win. (Photo from Ohio Athletics)

After weekday practices are dismissed, players are usually in a frenzy to head to the locker room, but wide receivers coach Dwayne Dixon and his players are regularly the last to leave the field. Dixon keeps his guys out on the field until dusk as long as they don’t have academic obligations. He trains his men to be assassins and pushes them to the limit so that they can achieve their full potential.

This is obvious on game day when the ‘Cats suit up for battle. Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton has the utmost trust in his targets due to their rigorous training habits. We’ve seen it from Donte Foster, who can more than likely run the fade route in his sleep. We’ve seen it from Ryan Clark, who made the seamless transition from defensive back to wide out and has become a favorite target of Tettelton. We’ve seen it from Landon Smith, who seems to have filled the void of big-play receiver that belonged to Brazill last season.

The list can go on and on as each assassin on the Bobcat receiving corps has their own special identity that makes them a lethal target for Tettleton. One player that always seems to go unnoticed from the ongoing list of Bobcat weapons is redshirt Senior Bakari Bussey.

“I like the little sleeper label because no one really knows about me,” Bussey said. “I’m not that person, the primary guy, but I know when they call a play and I’m the one that’s called upon to make the play, I know that I’m going to make the play with confidence and do it to my best abilities.”

A sleeper agent is defined as one who is placed in a certain environment to, at first, not make an immediate impact, but become an asset once called upon. That has been the story for Bussey so far this season. He has come down with big third down catches in the hard-fought victories in foreign territory over Penn State and Marshall. His awareness, one of the strongest parts of his game, helps him to become the X factor that his teammates can depend on.

“I know game situations,” Bussey said. “I think that I have enough game experience to know when I need to do a certain thing at some point, like if I need to run a route a yard deeper in order to get to the sticks.”

The way Foster has become known for the fade, Bussey has done the same with the slant route. A majority of his 12 receptions, tied for second most on the team, have come on the quick-read. His 6-foot-2-inch, 205-pound frame instills in him the poise to cut across the field and get in position to move the chains, prolonging key drives.

Along with his self-assurance, Bussey’s physicality is another asset that allows him to run the routes that few receivers enjoy to take part in. Wide outs are recruited to catch the ball, but Bussey gets extra satisfaction out of taking a blow from an opposing defender after coming down with a crucial catch. He’s fearless on the field, another identity that a sleeper agent must assume when carrying out their task.

Bussey loves the physical aspect of being a wide receiver. Whether it’s crossing the middle on a pass route or blocking defensive backs downfield, Bussey is all in. (Photo by Devin Rhodes)

Bussey has had previous training in high school to get him ready for his special role in the Ohio offense. Running for the Lakota West Track and Field team gave Bussey the chance to showcase his various athletic talents. Being thrown into almost every sprinting event by his coaches, he thrived in the 4×200 meter relay, 400 meter run and 4×400 meter relay the most. Although he labeled the 400 as a mentally exhausting race, Bussey got more gratification when he competed in the team-oriented relays.

“I really liked being apart of a team,” Bussey said “Especially our (4×200 meter) team because we went to State.”

When talking with Bussey about his placing at the 2008 Division I Boys State meet, he said that the team’s fourth place finish was respectable, but that it wasn’t satisfying enough. Although Lakota West finished higher than Ohio teammate Mario Dovell’s 4×200 team, it wouldn’t be enough to take home the bragging rights cake among the receiving core.

“Chase (Cochran), Mario (and I), we all ran against each other at State, and whenever it gets brought up (between) me and Chase, I’ll be like ‘Who’s 4×100 team was better?’” Bussey boasted.

He was just forgetting one thing.

“And then Mario will come out of nowhere and be like ‘Oh wait, I won State!’” Bussey dejectedly said. “It’s all fun and games and stuff, but I really wanted that championship.”

Bussey laughs about it now, and even admits to missing the days in which he ran against future teammates Cochran and Dovell. He took a lot away from his four years of running relays, which stressed the importance of how indispensable each individual athlete is to a team. The Lakota West standout now says that the three joke about creating a stacked club relay team, with the hypothetical addition of Ryan Clark, to see what the high school competitors could do together.

The companionship between the Bobcat wide receivers extends off the field as well, and ranges from playing Call of Duty as a whole unit to participating in the diverse hobby that is long boarding. After discovering the art of long boarding while walking the grounds of Ohio University, the individualistic Bussey picked up on the unique mode of transportation to get around campus and recruited Cochran and freshman receiver Dayne Hammond as well.

“It keeps my interest, and I like doing different things,” Bussey said of long boarding. “It’s definitely better to hang out with them and have something else other than football.”

Bussey enjoys longboard skate boarding and has even recruited teammates like freshman Dayne Hammond to join. (Photo by Seth Austin)

His distinctiveness continued to shine as his most prominent trait when the topic of music came up in conversation. Bussey proclaimed Wiz Khalifa, Curren$y and Kanye West as his three preferred artists and dubstep as his pre-game genre of choice.

“I don’t like being normal, being unique means a lot to me,” Bussey said of his personal tastes. “It shows my individuality.”

Like a sleeper agent, Bussey assumes many deviating interests off the field and responsibilities as a wide out whenever he suits up in hunter green and white. Before games he will usually sit in his locker and keep to himself, not needing any pregame rituals to put him in the right mindset to perform on the gridiron. When the whistle blows he’s ready to play, simple as that.

The team togetherness that he learned through running on relay teams in high school allowed him to appreciate the importance of bonding on and off the field. His fearlessness and confidence that he has gained throughout life makes him a fearless warrior on the gridiron. His distinguishing taste in music highlights his individuality. After putting all of that together, Bussey is then able to take the field as a member of the Ohio Bobcat football team.

“Now that I understand that there’s a whole lot more meaning behind being dressed in green and white every Saturday, it definitely means a lot and I’m proud to be wearing those colors,” Bussey said.

Mission accomplished.

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