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Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker is ready to make even more noise in his junior season

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The Cleveland native was Ohio State’s second leading tackler last year.

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

“I got a good taste of college football with the playoff and didn’t feel I performed as well (then). My goal is to get back there and definitely win both games.”

Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker via Bill Rabinowitz, The Columbus Dispatch

Heading into last season, Ohio State had plenty of starters from the 2015 team to replace on defense. Sophomore linebacker Jerome Baker was in the mix to be one of the team’s starting linebackers, but going into the season opener he sat behind Dante Booker on the depth chart. The linebacker from Cleveland didn’t have to wait long to make a name for himself after Booker was injured against Bowling Green. Baker finished second on the Buckeyes with 83 tackles, and was named one of the 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award. Two of the most notable big plays Baker made during the year were an interception he returned for a touchdown against Oklahoma, as well as a critical interception in the victory over Michigan.

Now as he heads into his junior season penciled in as one of the starting linebackers, Baker still has some unfinished business to attend to. While Ohio State made the College Football Playoff last season, the 31-0 loss to Clemson wasn’t the way the Buckeyes wanted their season to end. After spending last year learning from McMillan and Chris Worley, Baker now is one of the linebackers who will be looked at to lead and help the younger Ohio State linebackers grow. New linebackers coach Bill Davis knows that Baker has the talent and potential to be one of the best linebackers in the country, but there is also plenty of work Baker still has to do. If Baker can continue to grow, and help those around him do the same, Ohio State will have a great shot at not only making this year’s playoff, but winning it all.

“I feel like I’m one of the most dynamic players in the country, honestly.”

Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley via Ari Wasserman, Northeast Ohio Media Group

After spending the previous two seasons at Ohio State getting limited time on the field, last year Chris Worley finally got a chance to show what he could bring to the table. Heading into the 2014 season, Worley was in a tight battle with Darron Lee for one of the starting linebacker spots, but in the end Lee barely edged Worley out. While it wasn’t exactly the result he was hoping for, there is no shame in backing up a linebacker who went on to be a first round pick in last year’s NFL Draft. With Lee out of the picture last year, Worley went on to register 70 tackles, and he has designs on making an even bigger impact in his final season at Ohio State.

Not only is Worley eyeing a new position this year, but he is also bringing in a new attitude. With Raekwon McMillan moving on to the NFL, Worley is hoping to step in to McMillan’s position as middle linebacker. There are questions about Worley’s size, but both Worley and linebackers coach Bill Davis are convinced he can play middle linebacker in the college game. Now that Lee and McMillan are gone, Worley is bringing a swagger and confidence that he hopes will spread throughout the rest of the defense and help Ohio State continue to field one of the best defenses in the country.

“He definitely has a NFL feel to him. He’s a little different than coach Fick in how he teaches. They teach the same things. They just teach them in different ways. It’s up to us to adapt to it. He’s still adapting as well.”

Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley on linebackers coach Bill Davis via David Jablonski, Dayton Daily News

After spending 24 seasons as a NFL assistant coach, Bill Davis is settling into his role as Ohio State’s linebackers coach. Last year Davis was a volunteer analyst for the Buckeyes, so he does have some familiarity with Urban Meyer and the rest of the team, but now he has a lot more on his plate as he steps in for Luke Fickell.

Now Davis is trying to become even more accustomed to the differences between the NFL and college. While on the field a lot of things are the same, the biggest differences are the age group and the schoolwork that players have to also stay on top of. Recruiting is another task that Davis has to take on that he didn’t have to in the NFL, but with the guidance of Meyer, Davis is finding his way on the recruiting trail. Ohio State has put plenty of linebackers in the NFL over the years, and now with Davis heading the unit, those who make it to the next level will be even more prepared to make the jump.

“Even though it’s a different arena — we’re going to play in Rupp (Arena) now — I think being in the same place will bring some comfort to our team.”

Ohio State women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff via Mackenzie Gignac, The Lantern

After spending last weekend in Lexington for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Ohio State’s women’s basketball team heads back down to Lexington for a showdown with Notre Dame on Friday night. Last weekend the Buckeyes were able to beat Western Kentucky and Kentucky, but the competition gets even tougher as they face one of the top seeds in the tournament. Against one of the best teams in the country, Ohio State is hoping that spending a second consecutive weekend in the same city can give them a bit of an edge.

Earlier this week it was announced that Notre Dame’s top scorer and rebounder, Brianna Turner, is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL. The injury to Turner could take a bit of the pressure off of freshman Tori McCoy, who was going to be tasked with trying to slow Turner down. McCoy has been outstanding in the first two tournament games for Ohio State, averaging 13 points, 7.5 rebounds, and four blocks. To pull the upset on Friday night, Ohio State will need more out of Kelsey Mitchell, who started the tournament slow with just 15 points against Western Kentucky, but put together a better game against Kentucky, scoring 21 points in the victory. All the pieces are in place for Ohio State to better last season’s performance when they lost to Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen, now they just have to execute.

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