ATHENS — Deandre Baker says he sharpens his skillset every day in practice against Georgia receivers, included Mecole Hardman, and that’s what leads to performances like Saturday.
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (3-0) overwhelmed Middle Tennessee (1-2) by a 49-7 final score, but it was 42-7 by half and Georgia essentially called off the Dogs.
Baker was in lockdown mode, smothering a throwback pass to quarterback Brent Stockstill for an 8-yard loss, and intercepting a pass he returned 26 yards.
Georgia had done its work in the film room, Baker explained.
“I was hoping for the throwback; that was one of the trick plays that came up in the film room,” Baker said. “He handed the ball off and then he was staring at the running back waiting on it, so I just stayed on the back side.”
The interception was also planned.
“That’s the way the coverage is designed,” Baker said. “To bait him, and he threw it.”
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart confirmed as much, adding that he’s not sure Baker was challenged much after that interception.
Deandre Baker was at it again today – stingy in coverage, per usual. pic.twitter.com/P0tDCUfYr9
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 15, 2018
“[Baker] got a pick, but that was more of a zone coverage where he was able to read the quarterback’s eyes and get a pick, so that was pick,” Smart said. “I don’t know that he got challenged.
“I know last week how he played; he played really good. He’s a good player.”
Indeed, Week 2 at South Carolina will always be known as the “Deandre Who?” game because Gamecocks receiver Deebo Samuel claimed not to know much about Georgia’s star cornerback.
Baker smothered Samuel, limiting him to six catches for 33 yards — none longer than 10 yards.
Samuel was targeted 12 times — and five of the six incompletions thrown his way came in the first quarter.
“They know 18 know,” Baker said after the game. “They know me now.”
Indeed, SEC opponents have plenty of film on Baker and will be measuring their game plans accordingly.
Smart has emphasized improving each week in practice with spirited drills pitting starters against one another.
Baker said he and Hardman square off regularly.
“We go at it every day in practice, he wins some, I win some,” Baker said. “Our DBs go at it every day, so in the games, it will be easier.”
Baker said he also received extra work carrying the football into the end zone as a result of his fumble on an interception return against South Carolina.
If Baker had a potential interception return for a touchdown against Middle Tennessee, he said, “I probably would have ran to the Tate Center.”
Georgia football Deandre Baker
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