Baker Leaves Hole At OLB

By Jeff Rapp, January 9th, 2018

Jerome Baker made a major emergence in the Ohio State defense in 2016, and while this past season was a little quieter for the athletically gifted outside linebacker, he’s ready to see if his talents will be welcomed in the NFL.

A 6-1, 225-pound junior, Baker announced on Twitter on Monday that he is forgoing his senior season to make himself eligible for the upcoming NFL draft.

Scouts and analysts seem to think his name will be called on the second day as Baker currently projects to be a third-round pick. He racked up 72 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, this past season.

As a sophomore, Baker took advantage of an injury to teammate Dante Booker suffered in the season opener and became a mainstay of the Silver Bullets defense. Baker went on to record 83 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions in 2016.

Baker did not tip his hand as the team prepared for and eventually defeated USC in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29. He was part of a stellar defensive effort as the Buckeyes posted a dominant 24-7 victory.

A product of Cleveland, Baker is a workout warrior who could improve his draft stock with a good showing at Ohio State’s Pro Day – and the NFL combine, if he manages to earn an invitation.

He joins a pair of defensive teammates, end Sam Hubbard and cornerback Denzel Ward, who have already let it be known they are leaving their final year of college eligibility on the table. Ward, in fact, did not play in the Cotton Bowl, prompting the university to announce his intent to pursue the 2017 draft.

The OSU defense also will lose several key seniors: defensive linemen Tyquan Lewis, Tracy Sprinkle and Jalyn Holmes; middle linebacker Chris Worley; and safety Damon Webb. Quarterback J.T. Barrett, center Billy Price, left tackle Jamarco Jones and tight end Marcus Baugh are the senior starters on offense who are now headed out the door.

Running back Mike Weber recently hinted that he will return. Other Buckeyes reportedly still mulling decisions include H-back Parris Campbell, wide receiver Johnnie Dixon and defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones.

College players have until Jan. 15 to decide if they are seeking early entry into the NFL draft.