Jerome Baker started at linebacker the last 12 games of the season for the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2016. He finished second on the team with 83 tackles. He earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention.
Baker believes he can play even better as a junior this fall because he knows the defense so much better. He was still learning a year ago and made this interesting admission Thursday after Ohio State held its 12th preseason practice.
“I lined up wrong most of the time (last year),” Baker said. “People watching on TV don’t notice it. Watching film, you see it. This year, I’m lined up correctly and focused on my gap scheme and all that.”
Baker stepped into the starting lineup when Dante Booker injured his knee in the season opener against Bowling Green. In Baker’s second start, he returned an interception 68 yards for a touchdown against Oklahoma.
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Baker will meet Oklahoma and another player named Baker, quarterback Baker Mayfield, again on Sept. 9 when the Sooners visit Ohio Stadium.
“My biggest motivation in that game was, ‘His name is Baker,’” Jerome Baker said. “It was like, ‘I’m the real Baker.’ That was my personal motivation.”
Playing aside Booker and Chris Worley motivates Baker as well. The tree Ohio natives are expected to start in the secondary when the season opens Aug. 31 at Indiana.
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Baker is from Cleveland Benedictine. Booker, a redshirt junior, graduated from Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. Worley, a fifth-year senior, comes from Cleveland Glenville.
“That shows Ohio has the best football in the country,” Baker said. “It’s definitely fun. It’s definitely exciting. Worley was my big brother when I came here to play. Playing beside him is pretty cool. The best thing about us is we’re very close. That’s what makes us a great team. We’ve seen each other grow up. It’s fun to know these guys are my brothers.”
Now that Baker has a better understanding of where he needs to be every play, he should be in a better position to make more big plays. Last year, he sometimes made plays when he was out of position.
“His football IQ is high,” linebackers coach Bill Davis said, “and I think it’s growing, and when you take a fast player who’s twitched up like he is and he thinks clearly and knows he knows, now you actually increase his speed, so Jerome is getting faster and faster the stronger understanding he has.”