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UAB Transfer Baker makes early impact for Panthers

Panthers safety, Bobby Baker, celebrates an interception with his teammates. By: Ralph Hernandez
Panthers safety, Bobby Baker, celebrates an interception with his teammates.
By: Ralph Hernandez

Junior safety Bobby Baker opened his first season as a Georgia State Panther with a bang despite the Panthers suffering a tough loss in the opener against Charlotte.

Baker set the school record for most turnovers by one player in Georgia State’s five year history.

Baker got his hands on the ball a total of five times against Charlotte. The Panthers forced a total of five turnovers and all five found the hands of the six foot two Sherman Oaks, California native.

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Baker finished the game with eight total tackles, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

Baker’s big plays came in big moments as well. These gaudy stats were a large part of the keeping the Panthers in the game and spurred a rally after the Panthers fell behind 10-0 early.

“He was exceptional. He made a lot of plays.got his hands on the ball and was in the right spot,” Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter said. “ The guys around him made some plays, forcing fumbles and he was in the right spot to recover them.”

Baker started the show in the first quarter after recovering a Matt Johnson fumble which slowed Charlotte’s momentum for a while. Charlotte would eventually go up 13-0.

Charlotte was threatening to put another score that could have possibly started a route in the Georgia Dome when Baker picked off a Johnson pass in the endzone keeping the game at 13-0.

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It was Baker’s first interception since Sept. 13, 2014 when Baker played with UAB and the Blazers faced Alabama A&M.

“Oh that was a great feeling. That’s another thing that I haven’t felt for a while. Since back on the field last season. It was the greatest feeling man,” Baker said. “It’s one of the biggest plays you can make and it’s one of the best ways you can change the game. I was a little disappointed I didn’t score though. That was the biggest thing for me.”

The next Charlotte drive was cut short as a Panther’s defender knocked the ball loose again and Baker was in the right place at the right time, picking up his third turnover of the game.

The second half opened with Charlotte up 20-3 and Baker cut the first Charlotte drive short as he again picked off Johnson and raced 13 yards putting the Panthers in Charlotte territory.

Panthers got a field goal out of the good field position created by the turnover. But late in the third quarter Charlotte threatened to run off and hide when Baker recovered another fumble, his fifth turnover in the game.

The Panthers would eventually fall 23-20 to Charlotte after a late rally. A rally that was possible because of all the turnovers.

Five turnovers from one player. Is that a coincidence? Any fan or player of the sport of football knows there’s no such thing as a coincidence or luck in the sport.

Every remarkable play that occurs in the course of a football game is the result of months of work and skill as some of the biggest, fastest and strongest athletes in the world fight for 100 yards of turf on a weekly basis.

But Baker looked to the spirits of the great beyond in the sport of football for his explanation for his big game.

“Wow. The football gods are on my side right now. You know I’m going to do everything that I can to keep them happy,” Baker said.

The numbers are staggering and could be seen as a pleasant surprise for the Panthers. Baker comes to Georgia State from the University of Alabama of Birmingham that shut down its football program late in 2014.

Baker enrolled at Georgia State in January with six other former Blazers. Baker led the Blazers in tackles early in the season before an injury derailed a promising season. Baker had 19 total tackles for UAB in the first three games of 2014 when he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Baker was a junior college transfer that spent two seasons at Pierce (California) College where he was a teammate of Panther’s senior quarterback Nick Arbuckle.

Baker did not get a chance to participate in spring practices as he was still rehabbing his injured knee.

Baker’s rehab is clearly done and he is simply happy to even be back on the field in 2015 after losing his program and suffering a major knee injury.

“It was a great opportunity. It’s been awhile since I’ve been back out on that field. Just to be back in my jersey and shoulder pads it’s just a phenomenal feeling,” Baker said.

Going Forward

The Panthers are happy to have him on the field as well. Now that Baker has gotten the first game jitters out of the way and made some big plays and earned the respect of the other Panthers and coaches.

“He’s got great size, he’s got great range, great length, and he’s a really smart player. He probably watches as much film as anybody on our defense and studies the game,” Coach Minter said.

Baker’s skillset as a safety is unique. Baker stands six foot two inches tall which is good size for a safety. Baker’s size allows him to deliver punch to offensive players in the tackle box and he has the speed to make plays in space, another unique trait that lots of bigger safeties just don’t have.

Baker showed the ability to play at the line of scrimmage and also has the range to drop in coverage in the center of the field. Baker can also come up and slow down opposing slot players and as seen in the Charlotte game has a natural instinct to make plays no matter where he is lined up.

Going forward the Panthers will look to give the opposing offenses different looks by moving Baker around as he is now a player that teams will have to find pre-snap.

“We’ve got to move him around and put him in position to make those types of plays for us. He is a playmaker. So when plays are to be made in his area he’ll make them,” Defensive Coordinator Minter said.

Baker also has earned the right to be a leader in the Panther’s defense. Baker didn’t get a chance to prove himself in spring practice like the other UAB transfers. Baker spent the spring watching and rehabbing and waiting his term to show what he could do.

Baker now feels more confident in speaking up with his new teammates in his new defense.

“I feel like I’ve gotten a little more respect from the guys. They respected me from the jump but just now showing a little bit of what I can do has brought me a little more respect and just hopefully it affects guys into doing things the right way,” Baker said.

Baker is now a key cog in a defense that appears to be much improved from 2014 and now number two’s voice will be heard barking as well as his loud play.

Baker and the Panthers have some tough challenges coming up as Georgia State will head to Eugene, Oregon to face Vernon Adams Jr. and the fast paced Oregon Ducks offense Sept 19.

2 Comments

  1. This is a story written about a game 2 weeks ago and doesn’t even mention the game he was ejected from against NMSU in the 1st qaurter.

  2. None the less it was a great game and a man is owed his props on a job well done. Oh FYI it was the second quarter not the first. Should have your facts straight before u go bashing great talent.

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