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Jerome Baker’s atypical attributes are the new normal for Ohio State linebackers

It's worked out for Ryan Shazier and Darron Lee. Baker is just next in line. 

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

“Jerome’s a very talented young man, and I think he’s got a big upside. The potential is there, but potential is a very dangerous word. It’s got to be backed up by work, and he’s working hard right now.”

-Ohio State linebackers coach Bill Davis, via Ben Axelrod, Land of 10

Junior linebacker Jerome Baker’s size and skillset are a far cry from the likes of former Buckeye greats like A.J. Hawk or Andy Katzenmoyer. Standing at just 6-foot-1, 225-pounds, he looks more like a safety. But, in many ways, he appears a lot more like the “modern” linebacker that has become more commonplace in Columbus, especially since 2014 when former defensive coordinator Chris Ash utilized former defensive back (and quarterback) Darron Lee as a highly-versatile linebacker. Lee, however, was not the first. Just two years before Lee was taken as a first-round selection by the Jets, Ryan Shazier was picked up with the 15th-overall pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2014 NFL Draft. Both Lee and Shazier were considered to be undersized for the linebacker position, with the athleticism of a defensive back. However, with their continued success moving from college to the pros, the smaller and more nimble players have had a proven impact on the linebacking corps at Ohio State.

Baker has been credited by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as being “not a traditional linebacker. But he’s fast, he can cover pass-catchers, rush the passer and is always in the middle of the action.”

Last season, Baker was still relatively unknown when he returned an interception for a touchdown against Oklahoma in the third game of the season. Baker ended his sophomore campaign with 83 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one more interception.

This spring, Baker has already shifted from strong side linebacker to the weak side, indicating his already existing versatility on the field. And while the potential is there, according to Bill Davis, his position coach, Baker has a lot of work to do--work that he is already putting in. “It’s that same mindset,” he said. “Just go hard, make everyone better and help our team win.”

“Ohio State has learned a hard lesson about putting too much stock in recruiting class rankings.”

-Zac Al-Khateeb, SportingNews

It was already a tough season for the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team. With a severely underwhelming performance, including winning just 17 games and missing out on the NCAA Tournament (and the NIT, to boot) for the second-straight year, the arrest of sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle Saturday for a myriad of charges capped off a painful period for Thad Matta’s squad--or at least what is left of it.

Lyle was the sole-remaining player from Matta’s fifth-ranked recruiting class in 2015. Following his arrest over the weekend, it was revealed that the guard had actually quit the team last month. He was one of five four-star recruits brought in that season, with four of the incoming freshmen ranked in the top-100 in the country.

The other four players all left after, or during, their true freshman season in 2015-16. Shooting guard Austin Grandstaff transferred in December 2015 after just 10 games. His family claimed at the time that they were unhappy with his minutes. He will be eligible to play after the first half of the season.

Center Daniel Giddens and guard A.J. Harris announced their plans to transfer following the season, with Giddens moving on to Alabama and Harris, a Dayton native, heading to New Mexico State. Forward Mickey Mitchell, who missed the first 11 games of last season, also announced that he is leaving Columbus following the season, with plans to head to Arizona State. Giddens, Harris and Mitchell will all have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Lyle stuck around for the past season, averaging 11.4 points and 4.6 rebounds on the disappointing season. For the first time under Matta, the Buckeyes failed to reach 20 wins, and the squad started conference play with an 0-4 mark, ultimately finishing the Big Ten season 7-11.

“Both Ohio State and Michigan showed how great our programs are today. It was awesome to watch both programs lay it out the way we did event after event. We were really fortunate to grab the victory in the First Varsity Eight. It’s a great day to be a Buckeye.”

-Ohio State women’s rowing coach Andy Teitelbaum, via the Ohio State University

The Ohio State Buckeyes women’s rowing team continued their dynasty at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis over the weekend, taking home its fifth-straight Big Ten Rowing Championship. It is the program’s eighth-overall conference championship.

The squad earned 180 points on the day with three first place finishes in the first varsity eight, second varsity four and second novice eight categories, just edging out second-place Michigan who tallied 179 points. Wisconsin came in third with 126 points, while Iowa and Indiana tied with 106 for the tournament.

In fact, it took until the final race of the day--the first varsity eight--for the Buckeyes to earn their victory. The team entered the race trailing Michigan, who had previously taken home gold in the first varsity four and second varsity eight, by an eight-point margin. Ohio State had earned silver in every other race on the morning to remain close behind the Wolverines, who they ultimately defeated by less than three seconds in the first varsity eight race.

After taking home gold yesterday, the second varsity four capped an undefeated 31-0 overall record, including a 9-0 mark in 2017, once again edging second-place Michigan for the title.

The Buckeyes also earned two conference tournament records over the weekend. Their second varsity four time was a championship best, while their first varsity eight time was the third-best time in Big Ten Championship history.

Ohio State also dominated conference awards, with three rowers, including Ida Kruse, Stephanie Williams and Rachel Engel, named First Team All-Big Ten--the most of any school. The Buckeyes also had two team members make the second team (Aina Cid and Cassandra Johnson) and had one honoree (Abigail Ernst) of the conference’s Sportsmanship Award.

The NCAA women’s rowing championships are scheduled to be held later this month at Lake Mercer in New Jersey.

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