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Football: Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker declares early for the NFL draft

Ohio State junior linebacker Jerome Baker (17) celebrates with Sam Hubbard after bringing down USC quarterback Sam Darnold (14) in the third quarter of the 2017 Cotton Bowl against University of Southern California on Dec. 29 in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Ohio State won 24-7. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Ohio State will have to replace a member of its linebacker corps for the second year in a row because of an early entree into the NFL draft.

Junior linebacker Jerome Baker announced his intentions to enter the 2018 NFL Draft Monday afternoon on Twitter in a letter addressed to “Buckeye Nation.”

“After a considerable amount of time and endless conversations with my loved ones, I have decided to forgo my senior year at Ohio State University to pursue my childhood dream of playing professional football,” Baker wrote.

Baker was a two-year starter at Ohio State, having burst onto the scene during his sophomore season in 2016 when he finished second on the team with 83 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss, and finished tied for third with 3.5 sacks. He also had two interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.

In 2017, however, Baker didn’t see the same success. He struggled against the pass and at defending opposing tight ends. He led the team this season with 72 tackles and had eight tackles for loss and three sacks, but his ability to defend the pass will be highly scrutinized throughout the draft process.

He finished the Cotton Bowl with five tackles and 1/2 sack.

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