October 30, 2009

New position for Baker?

ORANGE PARK, Fla. - He's listed as a linebacker according to his biography on Rivals.com.

But according to Orange Park head coach Danny Green, if Georgia were to give Demetre Baker a look at running back, Bulldog coaches would be surprised with what they saw.

"There's not a doubt in my mind that it's probably his best position," Green said. "Now, that might not be where they want him but he's got the speed to play in the SEC, he's runs with a lot of power and a lot of acceleration. He reads holes well and does a lot of other good things."

No, Georgia coaches have not approached Baker about a potential position switch.

In an exclusive interview Friday with UGASports, the 6-foot, 205-pounder and solid Bulldog commitment said he is still slated to play linebacker for the Bulldogs next fall.

But if by chance, they wanted him to give offense a try, Baker said he'd be happy to oblige.

"I'd just say 'Coach, put me anywhere,'" Baker said. "I'm a playmaker. I can play offense or defense, whatever fits the team. I just want to fit and be the piece that makes the whole team come together."

Don't discount the suggestion as mere whimsy by a doting head coach.

Although he played running back while still in junior high, Baker was strictly a defensive player when Green first arrived at Orange Park two years ago.

One of the first things the veteran prep coach did upon taking over was have his new players line up so they could be timed for the 40-yard dash.

Green said Baker ran a 4.4.

The decision to move Baker to offense has been a wise one for the Raider program. With two games left in the regular season, Baker has 94 carries for 740 yards and 11 touchdowns.

"Immediately I felt that he could play running back, but apparently the coaches around here before did not think that was possible," Green said. "I wanted him to prove that he can't play running back and I'm still waiting for him to prove that he can't play running back."

But don't get Green wrong.

Baker is still a very effective linebacker, one blessed with explosive quickness and speed. With 40 tackles thus far, Baker is one of Orange Park's top playmakers on the defensive side.

"I enjoy playing defense, there's no question about it," Baker said. "When I first got to Orange Park, they put me at defensive end but when Coach Green got here he put me at running back and I've been blessed to play it well. I like it, but I like defense, too. If I had to choose (once at Georgia) I don't know if I could pick."

Offensive coordinator Corey Green believes his star pupil has what it takes to play running back in the SEC.

He should know.

Green lettered at quarterback at South Carolina in the late 1990s when he was a teammate of former Gamecock great Deuce Staley. Although Baker's still raw, the younger Green agrees he could certainly succeed at running back in the SEC.

"He's progressed a lot for the past two years. He was a fullback for us last year and this year we thought he would benefit us more from the tailback position," Corey Green said. "We could have used him last year as well but we had tailbacks in the system. His vision has become a lot better and he's more comfortable running our base plays."

That's not all.

Despite being new to the position, Green said that Baker is already showing many of the intangibles that all great runners need to have.

"He's explosive and he breaks a lot of tackles," he said. "He plays wing-back in our base set but he also lines up in the I-formation quite a bit. He's really improved on his vision and patience hitting the holes and that kind of stuff. He breaks tackles but he can still run away from you."

So, would Georgia consider giving Baker a shot in the backfield?

The Bulldogs will bring back Richard Samuel, Caleb King, Dontavius Jackson, Carlton Thomas and Washaun Ealey and have a verbal commitment from Southwest Dekalb standout Kendrun Malcome.

However, there has been talk that coaches might consider moving Samuel to linebacker and it's not known whether or not the program will be able to sign another running back for the upcoming class.

Whatever position he plays, Baker wants to assure Georgia fans that he will without question be wearing the Red and Black next fall.

Other schools have tried to get Baker to give them a second look but Baker said he's not listening.

"The Gators talk to me but I let it go in one ear and out the other because they know I'm coming here," Baker said. "I've talked to Coach (Urban) Meyer about it, and I told him I wasn't really happy with what I've seen down there."

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