Ohio State junior linebacker Jerome Baker announced on Monday that he would forego his senior season and enter the 2018 NFL Draft.
He released the news via Twitter.
For everything! pic.twitter.com/KOSQ4LhwHl
— Jerome Baker Jr. (@Lastname_Baker) January 8, 2018
Baker started for the Buckeyes for two seasons, recording 159 tackles and seven sacks between 2016 and 2017.
He stepped in for an injured Dante Booker in 2016 and played very well, creating the expectation that this would be his final season at Ohio State.
Baker led the Buckeyes with 72 tackles this past season, but admittedly had a slow start to 2017. He eventually graded himself as a C or C- for his play this year.
“Yeah, a lot of it was me being hard on myself. I set my expectations so high,” he said recently. “You just really try to strive for better every day and just sometimes it doesn’t go your way. There’s some plays I look back on and I know I could have done better and some games I know I could have played better. It’s more of I know what I can do. It’s not about the scheme, it’s just that I know personally what I’m capable of. Anybody else can say what they want, but I know that I could have gotten better.”
Baker is one of the best athletes to ever play linebacker at Ohio State, and has been compared to past Buckeyes like Ryan Shazier and Darron Lee.
“I never try to compare my game to other guys,” he said. “I try to be similar to other guys. Ryan Shazier, Darron Lee, those guys. Especially Ryan Shazier, I hope he’s doing well, but those guys I looked up to. I always try in some aspect mirror his game, but I never try to be exactly like him.
“My criteria is I always use three categories. The first is bad plays. The second is a good play, which you’re supposed to do. And third is a great play. Bad plays are bad plays. Bad eye discipline. Good plays are what you’re supposed to do. It’s not necessarily a great play, it’s just what you’re supposed to do. Great plays are plays like the one-handed catch in the spring game. That’s a great play to me. That’s how I grade myself, if I’m doing good, that’s what I’m supposed to do. So that’s not really excelling. That’s how I grade myself.”
The next step for Baker will be the NFL Combine in February where he is expected to perform very well and improve his draft stock.
Baker now joins junior cornerback Denzel Ward and fourth-year junior defensive end Sam Hubbard as NFL Draft early entrants from Ohio State. Running back Mike Weber has seemingly announced his return, and decisions are still coming from defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones and several Buckeye receivers.
We will have more in the coming days on how the Buckeyes will fill the void that Baker has left.