Ohio State’s spring practice is around the corner. The Buckeyes have already started training for the 2016 season and the team will take the field for the first time March 8. With nine underclassmen and a number of seniors departing from the 2015 team that went 12-1, there are plenty of questions surrounding the 2016 Buckeyes. BuckeyeSports.com is taking a look at some of the young players suiting up for Ohio State this spring and what they have to gain between now and the Buckeyes April 16 Spring Game.
What Baker Has Done: Something that only three of his teammates did last season – play as a true freshman. Baker began the season on the bench and seemed unlikely to earn any playing time, but that changed when injuries ravaged the Ohio State special teams units. He made his collegiate debut on special teams against Penn State on Oct. 17, making one tackle in the game, and went on to contribute to the kick coverage units for the rest of the season. Baker played in a total of seven games, almost exclusively on special teams, and tallied three solo tackles as a freshman. Along with Denzel Ward (seven total tackles), Baker was one of just two true freshmen to record a statistic for the Buckeyes in 2015.
What The Coaches Are Saying: “We’re going to find a way to get our best 11 guys out there. You’re going to see Jerome Baker have an opportunity to go out there. And you’re going to see guys that are going to come in (like) Keandre Jones are going to have an opportunity to go out there. But we’re going to move them around, find the guys that give us the best opportunity to be able to do those things.” – Co-Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach Luke Fickell
Why Baker’s Important: Because Darron Lee and Joshua Perry won’t be playing for Ohio State next season. Quite simply, Raekwon McMillan is the man at linebacker for the Buckeyes, but there isn’t another scholarship player at the position who has started a game at Ohio State just yet. Fickell noted that if the season started today Chris Worley would be starting in place of Lee, but Baker will at the very least need to provide depth this season. There is a ton of talent at linebacker – Baker included – but very little of it has been seen on the field so far.
What Baker Has To Gain: Playing time, and potentially a lot of it. Sure, he only got to play on special teams last season, but Baker even getting on the field in a year when just four true freshmen didn’t redshirt is pretty telling. Worley is the starter right now, McMillan made that clear in a recent interview session, but spring practice hasn’t even started yet. That means Baker still has plenty of time to make his impression on the coaching staff and, for all intents and purposes, he’s in a pretty wide open competition with Worley to be the week one starter.