Ohio State junior linebacker Jerome Baker will forgo his final season of eligibility and declare for the 2018 NFL draft, Baker announced Monday on Twitter.
For everything! pic.twitter.com/KOSQ4LhwHl— Jerome Baker Jr. (@Lastname_Baker) January 8, 2018
"To Buckeye Nation, the last 3 years have changed my life forever," Baker wrote in a statement. "I have had the opportunity to grow as an athlete, as a scholar and a man. The memories I have created along this journey will always be cherished.
"After a considerable amount of time and endless conversations with my loved ones, I have decided to forgo my senior year at The Ohio State University to pursue my childhood dream of playing professional football. I am beyond appreciative of the effort and sacrifices made by those around me to help me achieve my goals. It has been an honor to be able to participate in the Ohio State football program. I pray that I have as much of an impact on the program, the team and the fans as each had on me."
Baker, who led Ohio State with 72 total tackles in 2017, is ranked as the fifth-best linebacker in the 2018 NFL draft class by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.
Entering the 2017 season, Baker was widely projected to be a first-round pick if he declared for the draft. But after a somewhat disappointing junior season, even by his own admission, he could end up falling to the second or third round.
Even so, Baker decided it was time to move on and take his game to the next level.
While Baker will now focus on preparing to play in the NFL, Ohio State will now have two open starting spots at outside linebacker, with Chris Worley also exhausting his ability. While one starting spot will likely be Tuf Borland's to lose, candidates to emerge as the other starting linebackers include Malik Harrison, Keandre Jones, Baron Browning, Dante Booker, Pete Werner and Justin Hilliard.
Other Buckeyes who still potentially could declare for early entry into the draft, but have not yet announced decisions one way or the other, include defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones and wide receiver Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin. Running back Mike Weber hinted at a decision to return to Ohio State on Saturday, when he tweeted "One more year."