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Jerome Baker almost played his college football career at Florida, instead of Ohio State

It took a couple things to fall the Buckeyes way to keep Baker within state lines.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“A few hours after Baker committed to Florida, a story appeared on Sports Illustrated's page with the headline: "I'm coming home." That was James' official announcement that he was ending his four-year stretch with the Miami Heat and returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers.”

– Ari Wasserman,

Following your heroes is something commonly done. When the person you look up to comes from the your home state and makes a decision to go somewhere else to play a sport, you might just do it as well.

In the case of Buckeye Jerome Baker, his football commitment began with him tentatively being part of the Florida Gators. However, when LeBron James made the decision to make the trek out of Miami and go back to the Buckeye State, a growing sense of winning a title in the home state began to hold a special value - compared to being a transplant and winning a title in a place you can’t call home.

Wasserman’s article goes into the full picture of how Baker flipped from being a Gator to a Buckeye. From the OSU coaching staff’s persuasion of staying in Ohio, to the reshuffling of the coaching staff at Florida, there were a lot of things that helped the Buckeyes keep one of the top talents in Ohio within state lines.

“He is also on the cusp of setting a school single season record, which is held by Tom Tupa (47.1 average in 1984) and he is just one-tenth of a yard behind Andy Groom’s career punting average record of 45.0 yards set from 2001-02. Johnston’s career average is 44.9.”

– Ohio State spokesperson,

We haven’t seen him that much on the gridiron this season, but when punter Cameron Johnston kicks the ball, he generally sends it to oblivion. So far in the 2016 campaign, Johnson is averaging a 47.5 per punt – good enough for fourth best in college football. That punt average is a big reason why the Aussie has been named as a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award.

Johnston is familiar with making the semifinalist list for this award; it’s the third consecutive year he’s made it this far. If Johnston keeps punting like he is, then he will be on pace to beat the Ohio State record for longest punt average in a season. Tom Tumpa currently has that honor with an astounding 47.1 yard average, which has stood since 1984.

Johnston isn’t the only Buckeyes making an award semifinalist list. Raekwon McMillan is up as a semifinalist for the Lott IMPACT Award. As the award suggest, it's earned by the player that has the most impact for their team both on and off the field.

As the season closes, we’ll keep you updated if other Buckeyes can bring home individual hardware as well.

“Matta may not have the nation’s second-ranked recruiting class to rely on, as he did 10 years ago, but for the first time in a few years, there is plenty of cause for hope around Ohio State basketball.”

– Ben Axelrod,

Transitioning from the football season, Buckeye basketball officially tips off Friday night against Navy. After the NIT trip last season - which ended with a loss to the Florida Gators - the Buckeyes are primed to hit the ground running and get back into playing shooty into late March.

However, the hype surrounding the Matta regime isn't nearly what it was a decade ago. Long are the times of Daequan Cook, Greg Oden and the cast that reached the Final Four - which also ended with a loss to the Florida Gators.

Even after the Buckeyes basically rebuilt themselves after the mass exodus at the end of last season, a new season brings a new hope. JaQuan Lyle and Jae’sean Tate put in the work in the offseason, and are looked as the potential stars to help blossom this squad into an NCAA tournament contender.

Friday night is when we’ll see how this new look Buckeye team performs, and what hype this squad can corral going into conference play. Ohio State-Navy will be on at 9 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network.

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