Recruiting: Baker to bring LB 'instincts' to UT

<B>Lewis Baker</B> said it has always been a dream of his to play college football, but until a standout junior season at Lewisville Hebron, those dreams were mostly limited to NAIA or D-III schools.

"I never knew I'd get any D-I offers," the recent Longhorn commitment told IT Monday afternoon. "I didn't think about that . . . but I had a good year (in '01) and I got a lot of letters and then offers. Vanderbilt was the first to offer but I didn't think I'd commit early. I planned on taking all five of my official visits."

"Then this summer, I went to camps at OU and A&M," Baker said. "At the OU day camp I did good, they offered me and I had a good feeling that day. But the next day, that feeling wasn't there anymore. And at A&M, it was the same thing. I didn't go to camp at Texas but the coaches and players showed me around (on an unofficial visit last Wednesday with Hebron coach Brian Brazil) and I wanted to see if the same thing happened."

This time, two days after his trip to Austin, Baker's euphoria remained. Last Friday, the linebacker first called Brazil and his LB coach and defensive coordinator at Hebron, telling them that he "fell in love with Texas," and then he placed a call to Mack Brown.

Friday's commitment represented the culmination of events that began on Baker's one-day unofficial visit to the Forty Acres 48 hours earlier. He talked to players Nathan Vasher and Lee Jackson and recruiting coordinator Hardee McCrary, among others, and spent about an hour each with DC Carl Reese and Brown. Baker said his time with Reese was spent in "football talk," including a look at UT's defensive schemes and where he fit in to those schemes. His meeting with Brown, on the other hand, had a decidedly different focus. Baker left his time with Brown convinced that the Texas coaches "care about the players as people, not just as football players."

Baker, who played both inside and outside linebacker last season, said Reese told him that he could play all three LB spots for the Horns, although the Texas DC said that his ability to cover the TE makes him a candidate for the strongside (or SAM) spot. The 6-3, 203-pounder (as measured Monday at his high school) will play inside 'backer this fall, the spot he likes best on the defense despite the fact that he said he may end up on the outside in college because of his size, as well as TE on offense.

So how exactly did Baker go from a self-professed D-III prospect to one of the most highly sought after linebackers in the state, with 21 D-I offers (UT, OU, A&M, Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, Tulsa, Arkansas, UCLA, Vandy, Okie State, Boston College, SMU, TCU, Georgia Tech, Tulane, Michigan State, Cal, UNT, Northwestern and Duke)? First, he posted some impressive numbers as a junior last fall, recording 132 tackles (85 solo), including nine sacks, 20 TFLs and five caused fumbles, plus three pass deflections and a blocked field goal. But more importantly was how he put up those numbers. "The film tells you everything you need to know," Baker said. "I play hard every snap. I have a passion for the game."

Baker said he's really fast (his best 40 is an auto-timed 4.5 at Hebron, although he said he consistently clocks around 4.5) and he's physical when he gets there, knocking people over. When asked what his greatest football skill is, he immediately replied "instincts." He said he "reads plays real fast" and he also is a "great downfield player."

"I don't backpedal and I get to the ball every time," Baker added. "I love playing linebacker because you get to make plays. You can be in on every play and I want to (be in on every play)."

UT's great group of incoming linebackers, including Aaron Harris and Garnet Smith, obviously didn't deter Baker. "I don't have a big head and I'm humble, but I'm confident that I can compete with the best of the best. I'll have to prove myself and it'll be a challenge, but I'm up for it."

Baker said he also feels like he compares favorably with more publicized LBs TaTa Thompson and DeMario Pleasant. "The rankings, I don't pay attention to them," he said. "I'm not into the politics, I just play football."

Notes: Baker, along with teammate and long-time best friend OL Ian-Yates Cunningham, will be in College Station for a seven-on-seven tournament on July 19 and 20. Baker said he will play both LB and WR in the tourney. Cunningham, who will also attend an Aggie linemen camp the day before the seven-on-seven competition, is still "wide open" according to Heartland Recruiting's David Garvin, with A&M, Virginia, Stanford, Notre Dame and Texas the top early contenders for his signature. Club members click here for more on Baker.

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