Ten days after recording five tackles, including 1.5 for a loss and recovering a fumble in Ohio State's 24-7 victory over USC in the Cotton Bowl Classic, Buckeyes linebacker and former Benedictine star Jerome Baker declared for the 2018 NFL Draft.
A former 4-star prospect, Baker spent three seasons in Columbus, starting at outside linebacker in two of them. As a sophomore, he recorded 83 tackles, 9.5 of which came for a loss and 3.5 sacks while serving as one of the top playmakers on an Ohio State defense that helped lead the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff.
As a junior in 2017, Baker saw a slight slip in production, totaling 72 tackles, 8 of which came for a loss and 3.5 sacks. In a Twitter post announcing his decision to declare for the draft, the 21-year-old thanked among others, his hometown and high school alma mater.
"The last 3 years have changed my life forever. I have had the opportunity to grow as an athlete, a scholar and a man. The memories I have created along this journey will always be cherished for that," he said. "I would like to thank God, my family, my coaches and my teammates, the city of Cleveland, Benedictine High School and all of you Buckeye fans for continuously supporting me and pushing me to be the best version of myself."
In his most-recent rankings, released on Monday, Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller listed the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Baker as the No. 5 linebacker in the 2018 draft. He is the second Northeast Ohio native from Ohio State to declare early for the NFL after cornerback Denzel Ward did so after sitting out the Cotton Bowl in an effort to preserve his draft stock.