5 QUESTIONS WITH CB DEANDRE BAKER
ATHENS – Georgia’s Deandre Baker is one of those players who plays with the proverbial chip on his shoulder. Ever since he was senior at Miami’s storied Northwestern High, he has felt like he was under-valued, under-recruited and generally not fully appreciated.
It’s one reason why he snapped up the scholarship from then-UGA defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt in 2015. And it’s why he basically has played with reckless abandon since getting passed over for a starting job to start the 2016 season.
Baker’s not being passed over any more. He has started his last three games at cornerback for the Bulldogs, missing only the Vanderbilt contest due to a late-week ankle sprain.
“I mean, we could have started him to start the season; it was, like, dead even,” head coach Kirby Smart said of the competition between Baker and Juwuan Briscoe. “We had talked about playing him against North Carolina, but it just didn’t happen.”
Baker was frustrated by that. So frustrated that he asked for a meeting with Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker “a couple times.” Their advice to Baker was consistent. Just keep doing what you’re doing and your chance will come.
“He thought he had won a job in camp,” Smart said. “It was so close. That’s why it was so immediate in whatever game it was.”
That game was against Ole Miss. Baker relieved Briscoe, who was struggling to swift and long wideouts, and Baker has been a regular since.
“He takes practice so seriously,” Smart said. “He takes pride in tackling. And we’ve challenged these corners that, if you want to play, you’d better tackle. And that’s one of those areas we’ve been really weak in and he’s been really strong in.”
Said fellow DB Aaron Davis: “The biggest thing I see is he’s a great competitor. He’s a guy who doesn’t like getting beat. He’s going to go out there and give it his all and do whatever in order to make the play. We’re glad to have him back there.”
Baker collected the most points Georgia uses to grade its defensive backs in the Florida game. He enters the Kentucky game with 23 tackles and also has a sack, a QB pressure and pass deflection to his credit. After a brief battle with minor injuries, Briscoe continues to play as well. He has 14 tackles and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions.
“We have about six DBs who are ready to play right now,” Baker said. “Everyone’s working hard in practice, so every day is a battle. So whoever comes out on top during the week, that’s who starts.”
Baker’s been hard to beat so far. He’s the subject for this week’s “Five Questions With …” question-and-answer session:
Q: What brought you all the way to Georgia from Miami – bypassing Florida, FSU and the University of Miami to do so?
Baker: “Georgia’s a good program, but it had a good defense and a good coach in Coach Pruitt and everything. So that’s how I got out here. I got a lot of interest (from the Florida schools), but they had a lot of DBs and everything. So it was best that I come to Georgia.”
Q: How did you deal with not starting early in the season and it was it a motivation for becoming such a physical player?
Baker: “It was just motivation to go harder in practice, to give Coach confidence to put me in the game. (Being a physical cornerback) is a priority in this league, because we’ve got physical, big receivers, so you’ve got to match their talent and physicality.”
Q: What are your thoughts on Saturday’s matchup against Kentucky and all those talented running backs it has?
Baker: “That’s the main thing Coach Smart likes the DBs to do, come up and help the run. You have to be physical to play in this game, so we work on that in practice. So when the game comes, it will be easier. They have a good wildcat package, they also have a good pass game with very talented receivers. So it will be a good matchup this week.”
Q: How did you deal with the setback of the foot injury that you suffered the Wednesday before the Vanderbilt game?
Baker: “It was kind of hard. I had to rehab all day every day to make sure I could come back for the Florida game. It was a big game for me; I was looking forward to playing Florida. So I rehabbed all day long. … It still bothers me a little bit, but I just work through it.”
Q: Y’all do a lot of 1s versus 1s work in practice. Do you have any particular matchups where y’all really get after it?
Baker: “Isaiah McKenzie and Riley Ridley. They’re very competitive guys, you know. And Javon Wims is coming along, too, So it’s very competitive when we line up against each other.”