Time at Fork Union paying dividends for Baker

Jacksonville, Fla. native Eric Baker took a different route to USC than the majority of his Gamecock teammates. After the former Ed White High School star failed to qualify out of high school, he enrolled at Fork Union Military Academy last fall. It may have delayed his enrollment at USC, but Baker believes his time at prep school helped him mature both on and off the field.

The 5'11", 187 pound running back says his semester long stay at Fork Union Military Academy has prepared him in many ways, while also making him more mature as a human being.

"It prepared me mentally (and) physically. I'm not homesick anymore. I had (already) got through it at prep school. I know that's past me. It made me a better person."

Baker did his best to describe what a day in the life of a FUMA student-athlete is like.

"You wake up (at) five in the morning, march, come back, clean up you room, all that. It made me better academically and on the football field to push myself harder. It was a good learning experience," Baker said. "It was an all-boys school. (You) couldn't have cell phones or anything like that. (You) had to wait in line to use the pay phone to talk to your mom and stuff like that, but that's just how it was."

Now, the 2007 state of Florida rushing leader has turned the page to a new chapter in his life and is working hard to get acclimated with his new surroundings.

"It's a new learning experience. (Being at South Carolina) with my teammates and getting to know the program and stuff like that."

While his time at prep school prepared him for the rigors of college football and being away from home, one of the biggest adjustments for Baker this spring has been learning the ins and outs of Steve Spurrier's offense. According to Baker, the hardest part has been learning the pass protections, because his high school offense did not require much of it.

"A little bit," Baker responded when asked if he had to block any in high school. "But our high school never passed the football. We always ran the football. I was coached in the Wing-T offense."

Despite the steep learning curve in the offense, Baker is confident that having a spring under his belt before he even begins his freshman eligibility will help him.

"It's a whole lot tougher than my high school and my prep school," Baker said. "I'm coming along with the plays. I've got to learn more of the pass protection and then I'll be alright."

Baker also explained the difference in athletes he is going up against now, in comparison to prep school and his old high school days.

"It's like I'm playing against 20-year old guys and stuff like that — grown men out there. You've got to keep your head on a swivel and play hard. Everything is a total adjustment. It's a whole lot faster," Baker said. "You've got to know what you're doing out there, and you've got to play with a fast tempo."

Baker may still be learning the playbook and adjusting to the speed of play, but he also has to deal with the fact that four running backs stood ahead of him on the depth chart when he stepped on campus. Mike Davis, Bobby Wallace, Brian Maddox, and Taylor Rank all have SEC experience.

Baker may not have the experience of his backfield teammates, but the explosive back does have the quickness and "wiggle" those backs lack. Baker has shown consistent improvement during the first half of the spring and may be biting at the heels of some of those more experienced backs.

Baker's recipe for success on the field is a simple, but effective one.

"We compete. We play hard. We've just got to compete," Baker said.

"Day-by-day I'm getting better."

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