Baker opened it's doors in 2004 and suffered through the normal growing pains of a new school by going 0-10 in 2005 and 2006. In a very competitive 5A District they went 6-4 in 2007 and 5-5 in 2008. Expectations are higher for 2009 as they move to Region 3 District 12 in 4A(Cape Coral, Gulf Coast, Palmetto Ridge).
Much of the optimism centers around Joseph Byrd. Fresh off the track where he ran a 10.5 100, Byrd will play RB and S for the Bulldogs. He did not disappoint on Friday breaking off several 70+ yard scampers where that elite speed was on full display. Holding an Indiana offer amongst others, he has received plenty of attention this Spring. He is poised for a breakout year.
A second piece to the puzzle is Jonathan Garcia. There may not be a harder working, more driven player in the state. At a chiseled 6'3, 230, Garcia will play TE while making the move from DE to MLB. As a receiver he can get down the middle of the field and is an improving route runner. He is a devastating blocker who is technically proficient with great strength. Defensively, he will be counted on to be the leader of a young unit. Friday it was his blocking that sprung Byrd on two of his long runs.
The most dependable player on defense is Andrew Haynes. Rock solid across the board, he will come up and hit against the run while having ball skills against the pass. He is the type of safety you can sneak into the box. Rising sophomore Darryl Gary is a WR/CB who took a reverse the distance showing cutting ability and speed. Baker will need the young play-maker to step up and do that consistently in 2009.
Baker worked two QB's into mix on Friday. Sophomore Sean Francis and junior Jacob York. Both QB's have the athleticism and tools to be good signal callers. Both had some nice plays with their feet. A little more consistency in the passing game will keep defenses honest against Byrd.
The OL was hit hard by graduation, but there were signs of life on Friday. They will be young here, but the expected return of 2010 prospect Byron Marcelus will go a long way to solidifying this unit. He can be a dominating presence on both sides of the ball.
Overall, coaches should be pleased with what they saw on both sides of the ball and they look to be ready to go against Riverdale next Friday night.