OL Tosh Baker, 6-8, 270; Phoenix Pinnacle.
The numbers: Baker helped clear the way at left tackle for a Pinnacle offense that threw for 3,960 yards, rushed for 2,141 yards and scored 66 touchdowns in his junior season. The Pioneers (11-2) lost in the AIA Class 6A state semifinals to Perry.
The rankings: 247Sports – Four stars, No. 4 OT. Rivals – Four stars, No. 9 OT.
Against Bralen Trice
First impression: It’s easy to understand why Baker was coveted by offensive line coaches. He’s massive, nimble and a talented pass blocker. With added strength, perfected technique and a lowered pad level, Baker’s ceiling is about as high as you can get for an offensive lineman.
Strengths: If you’re going to try to go around Baker to get to the quarterback, you’re going to have a long trip. Baker uses his quickness and size to keep the quarterback’s pocket wide and deep. Trying to beat Baker with speed plays right into his strength. It’s easy for him to become a wall on the edge that way. Baker doesn’t knock back defensive ends with his punch in pass protection, but he does a good job of staying in control with his hands and replacing them when a defender disengages. Baker does a nice job of keeping his feet moving as a run blocker. He’s not necessarily going to put defenders on their backs regularly, but he’s happy with riding a block 10 yards down the field and clearly out of the play. Baker doesn’t dominate with physicality, but defenders are likely to have a quiet night against him.
Proof of prowess: (Games 1-3, :00) The defensive end across from Baker tries his hardest to get around or through Baker. No luck. Baker controls the defender as he tries to go outside then inside and then outside again. Baker gives his quarterback six seconds of protection before he decides to scramble the other direction … (Games 7-10, :07) Baker takes his defender on a ride to the goal line on a running play up the middle. Baker blocks his guy so far out of the play that he continues to push him around the scrum as his teammates fight for yardage in a pile … (1st/2nd Rds, :57) Here’s a good example of how Baker handles a speed rush. His defensive end gets a quick start on the edge, but Baker quickly gets back, puts his hands on him and sits into his pass set while extending his arms to deflate any pass-rush threat.
Competition level: Baker doesn’t identify him by name, but he put together a collection of clips going up against O’Connor defensive end Bralen Trice, a four-star recruit who signed with Washington in the 2019 class. In that game, Trice recorded only four tackles and did not record a sack against Baker. Baker also went up against Liberty’s Braxten Croteau, a three-star defensive end who signed with California’s 2019 class. Croteau only tallied two tackles and no sacks against Baker’s Pinnacle squad.
Arizona doesn’t produce a lot of four-star and five-star recruits annually, but the 2019 and 2020 classes have been well represented. According to Rivals, the state produced one five-star recruit and six four-star recruits in 2019 and currently has one five-star recruit and 10 four-star recruits in the 2020 class. Most of that talent is located in the Phoenix area, so Baker draws solid competition.
In 2018, Pinnacle played against three of the top nine teams in Arizona, according to MaxPreps: Perry (twice), Mountain Pointe and Liberty. The Pioneers also played against JSerra Catholic, the No. 7 team in California and No. 17 nationally. Pinnacle plays in the highest classification in Arizona.
Left to prove: Playing low will always be a challenge at 6-8. But it’s important for Baker to develop an ability to bend at the knees and operate with balance while blocking. He plays too upright at times, which isn’t surprising at his age and size. Improvement in those areas will allow him to better combat defenders at the college level trying to beat him with strength and leverage. The best defensive ends in college may also try to duck under his pass protection if he doesn’t stay low. Baker can play more physical at the second level as he sometimes catches linebackers rather than delivering a blow.
But every critique of Baker is correctable. That’s why Notre Dame offensive line coach Jeff Quinn should be pumped about Baker’s commitment. He’s one big chunk of clay that could be molded into an elite college offensive tackle.