With the early signing period for 2018 football recruits set to start in mere hours, the Virginia Cavaliers landed a major addition to the defensive backfield in Jaylon Baker out of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Baker is something of an enigma in the 2018 class. He’s a well regarded recruit: rated 86 by 247 Sports and 5.6 by Rivals, both services count him as a three-star and a top-30 recruit in the state of Tennessee. But Virginia was his first Power Five offer. Until the Hoos came along, UMass was the team to beat. Georgia Tech got in on Baker late, but UVA apparently sealed the deal when they got him to Grounds for an official visit on December 15th.
This is a prototype Mendenhall corner. At 6’2, 170 pounds, Baker fits the mold currently occupied by the likes of Tim Harris and Bryce Hall. He’s long, too, with a wingspan that looks more like 6’5. The thing that jumps off his tape the most is his physicality: whether it’s against the run or separating a receiver from a pass, Baker plays downhill and makes sure, startling contact. He’s instinctual in space as well, making plays off his assignment if the ball is coming in nearby.
One thing there isn’t a lot of here is film of Baker playing press coverage. He’s got the speed, the athleticism, and the ball skills to play corner, no question. But at his size, with a frame that can add 35–40 pounds easily, I would be intrigued to see him at safety. As a plus-plus addition to run defense, Mendenhall and Nick Howell should be able to find plenty of creative ways to move him around and make life hell on opposing defenses.
Baker becomes the fourth-highest rated high school commit for Virginia’s 2018 class according to the 247 Composite, behind quarterback Brennan Armstrong, and linebackers Javar Garrett and Noah Taylor. (JUCO transfer quarterback Bryce Perkins comes in between Garrett and Taylor.) Baker is also the third defensive back commit.
Stay tuned to Streaking the Lawn through the rest of the week for more Virginia recruiting news.