Florida secured a commitment from Ohio linebacker Jerome Baker on Friday. Baker committed at a ceremony at his high school, Benedictine High School in Cleveland, and also in a "digital exclusive" at Bleacher Report in which he is called an "amazing talent" and monster recruit."
And, yes, this means Florida beat Urban Meyer and Ohio State again.
Baker had been considering Florida, Ohio State, and Tennessee, but while he was once seen as an Ohio State lock, he had been trending Florida's way of late: While 100 percent of Crystal Ball predictions for Baker were for Ohio State as of July 1, a spate of Florida predictions since made it almost an 80-20 shot Baker would end up with the Buckeyes.
Essentially, Florida pulled what feels a lot like a flip on a prospect who projects as one of the best linebackers in the country in the 2015 recruiting class, but will have to play defense — and, likely, play well enough in the fall for Will Muschamp to be retained — to keep Baker from being swayed by his home state school between now and National Signing Day.
The good news is that Baker's definitely good enough to take now and worry about keeping for months on end. 247Sports's Composite rankings slate him as the nation's No. 53 player in the Class of 2015, and the No. 5 athlete. And Baker, whose high school double duty of running back and linebacker is part of why he enjoys that "athlete" tag for now, is every bit as good on film as his rep suggests.
Baker's good size — he's listed at 6'2" and 210 pounds, but I wouldn't be surprised if those were slightly on the high side — coupled with his excellent speed and quickness and strong instincts make him the kind of player Jelani Jenkins was as a high schooler. And Jenkins, remember, was a crucial part of Florida's defense in 2011 and 2012: The Gators lacked a linebacker with his pass coverage chops in the 2013 Sugar Bowl and 2013 season, and it showed repeatedly.
Baker's commitment brings Florida to 10 for the 2015 class, and Baker becomes the highest-rated player and first linebacker in the class. It's a safe bet that he might not remain the highest-rated player or only linebacker in the class, if he remains in it, but Baker being joined by five-star friends might actually be slightly more likely than Baker remaining in this class for the duration. Florida has a long, hard fight ahead of it to stay in front for Baker until he signs a National Letter of Intent.