Jerome Baker has always taken his recruitment seriously, and has always had a plan.
The Benedictine, Ohio four-star linebacker had three criteria – atmosphere, tradition, and academics – to help narrow his batch of more than 20 offers to eight programs in mid-June. His decision date, July 11, was selected for no reason in particular, save for one: he plans to visit the school he chooses in late July, which is when his mother can make a trip work.
"It means a lot that I can finally get one part of the recruiting process over with going into my senior year," Baker said. "It was a lot to handle and a lot of responsibility, and to get it over with is a relief.
"Those are the eight schools that I really saw myself going to," he continued. "They all have things I really liked, and that's what really separates them [from the other offers]."
That said, he still wants to think about it. He wasn't willing to disclose that school, but the senior did breakdown all eight schools with Scout.com. An alphabetical rundown is below.
Florida: When I visited Florida, I could tell immediately the university just fits me. It has everything I look for, and as soon as I walked in the building, I felt vibes that this is me. It fits my personality; it's very low key, they handle business, and that's who I am. I just like the feel. That really stood out. I really didn't feel another university like it. Immediately, I could feel it, this is me. That really stuck.
Florida State: Florida State, I really didn't know as much about them because they kind of recruited me a little late in the process. Getting familiar with their coaching staff, though, I could feel right away they had it all. I was really trying to get down for a visit but it didn't work out like that. but you never know; I might see if I have time. It's just Florida State, and one of the things that really stood out for me was they are the national champions. They now what it takes to win.
Miami: I haven't visited them, but what stood out is there tradition. Miami has a very good tradition at linebacker, and with me playing linebacker, that is a big deal. Miami really stood out there, and their coaching staff is amazing to talk to. It's not all about football. That's the one thing I really like. They talk about, like basketball, football, life … that was one thing I really liked.
Michigan State: It's just that their defense is top notch, especially at linebacker. They can really fly to the ball, and have fun doing it. When you watch Michigan State, you can feel that their linebackers enjoy playing linebacker cause it is fun. When I went to Michigan State, the campus is just beautiful. When I went to the spring game -- that is when I visited -- I could tell their academics are amazing. That's what really stood out.
Notre Dame: They do two things well: their academics and their tradition is very rich, and that really just stood out to me. They came in the process a little bit late, so that kind of, not bothered me, but troubled me a little bit. But, they have everything players look for; academics top notch, tradition rich ... I have't been there yet but I love their coaching staff. Notre Dame has a lot.
Ohio State: Ohio State is just another home. That's pretty much it. My friends go there, my family goes there, the coaches have been pretty much recruiting me through the whole process. I've been down there numerous times, and Ohio State is another home. That can be an advantage, but when you go to college, you do want to experience different things. Ohio State is Ohio State. It's my home school.
Penn State: I've been a huge Penn State fan since I was in eighth grade. I always wanted to go there and play. When [former Penn State head coach] Bill O'Brien was there, he did a phenomenal job of all the things I was talking about and it was Penn State, Penn State, Penn State. When he left, Penn State was kind of a ghost. I know [current Penn State head] Coach [James] Franklin had to get adjusted, but it kind of left me unsure of who Coach Franklin was and about that time, it was getting later in the process. But, I really still had a lot of interest. I got to know him a little bit when I visited while he was there. I got to sit down with him and talk with him a little bit.
Tennessee: Tennessee is the first SEC school I've ever seen, [it was my] first time I've been down south, and they really have a lot. Their facilities are amazing, their fans are crazy, their academic support is probably one of the best I've ever seen. Tennessee has so much to offer and [Tennessee's tight end] Coach [Mark] Elder, he's a great, great coach and I love talking to him. I have a great relationship with him and when I went there that's when I had time to spend with the players. I fit in, had a great time, and I felt wanted and needed there. I felt the love when I was there.