Hard-hitting athlete Cameron Baker nearing end of his winding-road recruitment
Cameron Baker's senior season hasn't exactly gone according to plan.
The Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson product had surgery on torn labrum in his right shoulder last November. It'd been a nagging injury since eighth grade. Yet, he played through the pain and still became a three-star prospect, earning offers from Iowa and Northern Iowa and making the All-Iowa Elite Team last season.
After surgery, Baker said he was excited to show colleges what he could do playing football pain-free for the first time since middle school. North Dakota State offered him during an unofficial visit. Central Michigan offered after watching him at camp.
But the injury bug bit again.
Baker has dealt with a tweaked ankle, a dinged-up knee and ailing left shoulder this season — and we're just six weeks in.
"I know, I know," said Baker, who's able to look at the frustrating situation with a smile.
He can smile because, even though things aren't where he might've hoped at this time last year, Baker, who checks in at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, is still in good shape for the next level.
UNI is still interested and wants Baker to come to Cedar Falls for a visit. The other two schools in the picture are Wyoming and Nebraska. Neither have offered, but both have been involved with Baker since early last season. He hopes to send both schools mid-season film soon and see where things go from there.
Iowa has backed off Baker's recruitment. He said that started after his shoulder surgery. And he said he hasn't heard much from NDSU or Central Michigan lately.
Baker said he wants to set up visits to UNI, Nebraska and Wyoming and commit "sometime soon." As a Council Bluffs kid, Baker grew up rooting for the Huskers. They have two linebacker recruits and a third athlete who will likely play linebacker. Wyoming is much more open, with just two 2019 recruits according to 247Sports.
Through five weeks, Baker has 20 tackles as a middle linebacker and 659 yards and nine touchdowns as a running back. At first, schools weren't exactly sure what Baker was. Some saw him at linebacker. Others saw him as a running back, or even a fullback.
Now, though, all three schools are recruiting Baker as a linebacker, he said.
"Really, I’m comfortable just being on the field," he said. "I have no problem learning a different position. So wherever they need me is where I’ll play."
He said he just wants to play somewhere he can hit people.
"Who doesn’t like putting the smackdown on somebody?" he said.
The Register was on hand for CBTJ's 34-12 win at Des Moines North last Friday. Baker didn't play most of the second half after landing awkwardly on his shoulder during one of his 17 carries for 101 yards. Here's what we saw from limited reps:
If you couldn't tell from his "smackdown" quote, Baker embraces physicality. He is a punishing tackler who stops opponents in their tracks. He combines that power with good angles to be a sure tackler who can win one-on-one battles against even the quickest running backs or receivers.
While he does excel as a high school running back, Baker's speed doesn't jump out at you. Perhaps it could be good enough to play outside linebacker at the next level, but he's likely a better fit as an inside linebacker. Or fullback/h-back.
In fact, fullback could be a great fit. He showcases impressive north-south, powerful running abilities every week. He isn't fast enough to be a college running back, but he certainly has fullback speed and power. Baker said NDSU had been looking at him at fullback.
"I love hitting people," Baker said, "so fullback would be a good position."
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.