Baker Bouncing Back From Injuries

Eric Baker has struggled to overcome injuries early in his Gamecock career. After a productive freshman season, Baker suffered from a hernia that hampered him his sophomore season, where he eventually suffered a torn ACL that forced him to sit out all of last season. Now back a 100%, Baker is set to battle Kenny Miles for the number two back.

After battling through injuries in each of his last two seasons, Eric Baker is ready to step in and contribute in his junior season. After turning some heads early in the spring and carrying the ball seven times for 34 yards in the first scrimmage, Baker topped it in Saturday's second scrimmage. Baker carried the ball 10 times for 34 yards and scored two touchdowns.

"Running-wise, I'm getting better every day - gradually getting better," Baker said following the scrimmage.

Baker, a 3-star recruit out of high school in 2007, had tremendous upside that was quickly noticed by the Gamecock coaching staff. Baker played in nine games - second most among running backs behind Mike Davis - and carried the ball 46 times for 182 yards. Baker had his best performance in a 34-21 win over Arkansas when he carried it nine times for 59 yards, including a career-best 20 yard run. He also had nine receptions for 108 yards on the season as well.

Baker's performance in 2008 earned him the top spot on the depth chart entering the spring in 2009 after Davis graduated. Baker suffered his first major injury during the summer when he was forced to undergo hernia surgery. He was unavailable early in fall practice and with the emergence of Kenny Miles and steadiness of Brian Maddox he became a forgotten man. He appeared in eight games in 2009, but saw a majority of his time on special teams. Baker only carried the ball two times - both against Florida Atlantic - for 22 yards and caught two passes - both in the Florida Atlantic game - for 10 yards.

Baker suffered his second major injury in practice prior to the Bowl that season, tearing his ACL.

"I had a hernia injury and the same year I tore my ACL, but I'm bouncing back from that," Baker said following last week's scrimmage.

It only took all of two practices for Baker to realize he was back. After the team practiced in helmets and shorts for the first practice, the team went to full pads the second. Once Baker got a shot at his knees and bounced back up, he knew he was back.

"When I first got cut basically," Baker said. "When somebody went low on me and hit me. From a mental aspect I had to overcome that."

Baker, now healthy, figures to challenge Kenny Miles for the back-up job behind Marcus Lattimore. Baker's speed and elusiveness should give head coach Steve Spurrier another option out of the backfield, especially on the screens and swing passes that have become favorite plays for Spurrier.

"I feel like I'm getting more elusive and getting better as the spring goes on," Baker said.

It's still unclear what kind of role Baker will play in the fall and if he'll be able to overtake Miles as the number two man. All Baker knows is that he will have to take advantage of every opportunity he gets.

"Whenever my number is called I'm going to be ready and try and make plays," Baker said.

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