2008 Recruiting: LB Ryan Baker

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via www.nmnathletics.com.edgesuite.net
Ryan Baker
Grand Ridge, Florida
Blountstown High School
6'0 210#
4.5 second 40

Ryan Baker is the best linebacker recruit LSU has had since Darry Beckwith.  He is one of the headliners of this class, and I say that without hesitation.  He is going to be a very good player for this team, and probably a multi-year starter.  I would be surprised if he is not on special teams as a true freshman and competing to take over the position vacated by Beckwith next season.

At 6'0" and 210 pounds, Baker is obviously still a little small for linebacker, and I doubt he will ever be a middle linebacker like Beckwith (who is, btw, playing out of position if you ask me).  He can be an outstanding outside linebacker, however, like Ali Highsmith but faster.

Speed can be measured in three distinct ways: straight line speed, change of direction quickness, and explosiveness.  Ryan Baker has very solid straight line speed and good change of direction, but where he really excels is in his explosiveness.  He is a guy who immediately gets to full speed and runs through the guy carrying the ball.  He is like a smaller Ray Lewis in that regard (but please don't expect Ray Lewis-like production, it wouldn't be fair to Baker).  Baker is a great tackler in space and a ball hawk.  

Baker's commitment came as a big surprise to everyone, including reportedly Les Miles.  At the time Baker committed, he was a 3-star player from right outside of Tallahassee, and Florida State hadn't made a move on him yet.  He came to LSU camp, got an offer and committed.  No one expected it.  He wasn't even on the recruiting services' radar at that time.

After watching his videos, commenters weren't wondering what Miles was doing getting this Tallahassee kid that FSU didn't want.  They were wondering what FSU was doing waiting.  His videos from his junior year are spectacular.  Eventually, word spread around and he went from a 3-star player all the way to a high-4-star player, nearing the 5-star level.  

I am personally very skeptical of the star system, though it is a lot of fun to keep up with and a somewhat useful guide, but the difference between the last 5-star and the first few 4-stars are nil.  Ryan Baker is an excellent player, and we're lucky to have him.  He's an explosive tackler who is the perfect linebacker for the spread-offense era.

One thing that is currently unknown to the general public is whether Baker can cover backs and tight ends in the pass patterns.  Like with most linebackers, Baker's videos just don't show it.  I guess it's not as sexy of a play as making the big tackle.  It's just as important of a skill, however.  We may not have seen him cover receivers, but if his athleticism is any indication, I am sure he can pick it up.

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