If Adrian Baker is to get back on the football field this season for third-ranked Clemson, it’s going to be up to Adrian Baker.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says the defensive back is cleared to play and is back in practice, but he has no idea when Baker will play in a game.
“A lot of that is with him and him being totally confident that he can cut it loose,” Swinney said. “That’s not anything anyone can control but him.”
Baker would love to play next Saturday when the Tigers (7-0, 4-0 ACC) visit No. 13 Florida State in Tallahassee, Florida. The Hallandale, Florida native grew up a Seminoles fans and always dreamed of wearing the Florida State uniform. However, during his senior year of high school, he took a leap of faith and signed with Clemson over Florida State.
Last year, he grabbed his first career interception when Clemson beat the Seminoles in Death Valley. He then snatched another one a few weeks later at South Carolina. When the season was over, Baker was penciled in as the starter at field corner heading into spring practice.
However, during the first week of spring practice he tore his knee and had surgery soon after to repair his ACL. The redshirt junior has worked tirelessly to get back, but it sounds as if he has a ways to go before he regains total confidence in his knee.
“The biggest thing for him is he has to get his confidence back. He is back in practice, but right now he is working every day on the scout team. It’s not like you can just put a guy back out there,” Swinney said.
Baker was out of practice for seven months and now he needs the reps in practice to help regain his confidence, which is why he is working on the scout team so he can get all the reps he needs to get back to full speed.
“He does all of the individual and some of the competitive stuff, the man-to-mans and all of that. The biggest thing with Adrian, and I think he will be the first to tell you, that he is not going to play until he is confident,” Swinney said. “That’s number one. Number two, he has to earn some opportunities. Those guys are playing pretty well (in the secondary). So that is just where he is.”
Without Baker, Clemson ranks in the top 10 nationally in six pass defensive categories. The Tigers’ secondary ranks second in yards per attempt (5.2), second in touchdown passes allowed (4), fourth in passing efficiency defense (90.95), seventh in yards allowed (166.1), eighth in interceptions (11) and 10th in completion percentage defense.
“We have some good players. It just doesn’t work that way. You can’t just jump out there and you are the guy again. You have to kind of go back to work and that is part of it,” Swinney said.