LB / Ohio State
Jerome Baker is recognized more as a linebacker than a poet, but he has a rhyme in regards to Ohio State’s intentions from week to week in a season.
“You just want to go, every week, 1 and 0,” said the junior from Cleveland.
It was mission accomplished for Baker and his teammates last week against the triple-option offense of Army, one week after failing 31-16 at home to Oklahoma. But as the Buckeyes prepare for Nevada-Las Vegas on Saturday, Baker indicated weeks ago that he takes to heart coach Urban Meyer’s urgings.
“He says to treat each game as a one-game season, and that’s what we try to do,” Baker said.
In that format then, he’ll be taking part in his first play of a new one-game season Saturday. Statistically, though, Baker has taken part in more plays this season, 227, than any other member of the front seven through three games.
His versatility, largely due to his speed, makes him a mainstay in the scheme, whether the Buckeyes are anticipating a run or a pass. The game against Oklahoma and its scrambling/throwing quarterback Baker Mayfield was a good example.
On successive plays where passes were expected, one snap Baker was taking on a back out of the backfield, the next he was blitzing through the middle, the next he was dropping deep into safety territory in zone coverage.
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That’s a good example of what Baker might be called upon to do against UNLV, whose offensive approach includes a strong running game led by Lexington Thomas, a dual-threat quarterback in Armani Rogers, and a talented receiver corps led by Devonte Boyd. Rogers is elusive, much as Mayfield was, which means Baker has to be wary on a blitz.
“You’ve just got to ease the pedal a little bit, go like 80, 75 percent,” Baker said.
But on the next play he might be assigned to fill a gap on a run play, or drop into coverage. Baker said he welcomes that mental exercise. His approach, in essence, is to be 1-0 from one play to the next.
“As far as mindset change, you just go out there and do your job,” Baker said. “That’s all I think about every play.”
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