ATHENS ― The Georgia defense and its secondary will lose a lot for next season, but it got a big lift an hour before the deadline to enter the NFL draft: Deandre Baker will return.
Baker announced the news on his Twitter feed. The cornerback was said to be seriously considering putting his name in for the 2018 NFL Draft after raising his stock during his junior season, but he has elected to return.
“Thank you University of Georgia for giving me the opportunity to capture one of my lifetime goals to become a NFL player,” Baker wrote. “However after discussing this with my family and coaches I decided to return to Georgia to play my senior year. Go Dawgs!”
Earlier in the day Georgia lost its top player, inside linebacker Roquan Smith, who declared for the draft, and last Friday junior defensive tackle Trenton Thompson also declared.
Georgia still loses three seniors who started in the secondary during its run to the National Championship Game. Baker joins safety J.R. Reed in returning to lead what will otherwise be a young unit.
Baker was named to the coaches’ All-SEC second team after emerging as Georgia’s most consistent defensive back this season. He did not allow a touchdown on a pass thrown to the man he was covering.
It’s been a quick rise for Baker. A native of Miami, he was a 3-star prospect when he signed with Georgia in 2015. He came off the bench as a freshman, making just 1 tackle in 11 games that season.
But six games into the 2016 season, he was elevated to a starting role, replacing Juwuan Briscoe in the lineup after a loss at Ole Miss. Baker helped solidify the secondary, starting the final seven games and finishing with 31 tackles, 6 pass break-ups and 2 interceptions.
This last season Baker took it another level. He emerged as a lock-down cornerback, grading out the best among Georgia’s defensive backs, according to Pro Football Focus.
When matched up in the National Championship Game against Alabama star Calvin Ridley – expected to be a first-round pick – Ridley was held to zero catches in 2 passes thrown to him while being covered by Baker, according to PFF. Ridley had 4 catches for 32 yards and the game-tying touchdown while being defended by other Bulldogs.