Notre Dame secures commitment from top OL target Tosh Baker
Tosh Baker once thought his future was with basketball.
He garnered basketball offers from UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly and Hampton prior to his junior season and before he received any football offers. As a sophomore, Baker played for Phoenix Pinnacle’s junior varsity football squad.
Roll the clock forward, and Baker now stands as one of the nation’s top offensive line recruits for 2020. There’s nothing more for him to ponder. Baker’s days as a stretch four will soon be in the past.
He will play college football. And he plans to do so for Notre Dame.
The 6-foot-8, 270-pounder verbally committed to the Irish on Wednesday, announcing the news via Twitter. He marks verbal pledge No. 10 for ND’s 2020 class. Notre Dame considered Baker as a high priority on the offensive line.
God. Country. Notre Dame.
— Tosh Baker (@tdbakes) May 8, 2019
That wasn’t the case until a few months ago. Baker’s first season as a varsity left tackle ascended his recruitment to heights he never imagined. His first reported football offer came in October via UCLA. Now a four-star recruit, Baker holds at least 30 football offers.
247Sports ranks Baker as its No. 4 offensive tackle and No. 41 overall player, while Rivals slates him No. 9 at the position and No. 51 overall. Baker earned an invite to play in next year's All-American Bowl in San Antonio. He does not intend to enroll early.
“It’s been surreal,” Baker said last week. “I didn’t think it would happen like this.”
Dana Zupke, Pinnacle’s head football coach, allowed him to dress out as an emergency player for the varsity squad even though Baker's 6-7, 230-pound sophomore build had him looking more primed for basketball.
What a difference a year makes.
“I got a lot meaner on the field from my sophomore year to my junior year,” Baker said. “It started clicking in my head. Then I got a little length and a little nasty, and that helped a lot. I took control.”
Notre Dame first expressed heavy interest in November. Irish offensive line coach Jeff Quinn took a Nov. 27 visit to Pinnacle for Baker. He first visited Notre Dame for its Dec. 15 junior day and left with an offer.
Baker returned for a March 30 unofficial visit. This time, Irish quarterback commit Drew Pyne was present to help recruit Baker.
“Notre Dame’s tradition, that’s huge,” Baker said last week. “Everything Notre Dame does is specific and has a reason. That’s huge.”
Pyne and Baker watched the Irish practice before spending time with ND’s coaching staff. That’s when Baker learned more about Quinn. Irish wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander joined Quinn for a final trip to Pinnacle on Monday to see Baker.
“I love coach Quinn’s energy. He’s a good guy,” Baker said last week. “He’s a coach and a father, and he takes both of those into football. He will coach you hard, and he’ll love you, too.
"Every time we get on the phone, it’s a new life lesson. It’s a new aspect to attack at life. It’s always something new. It’s always something beneficial to having a more successful life.”
Only three offensive linemen to sign with Notre Dame under Brian Kelly finished ranked among the top 100 players overall in their recruiting classes by both 247Sports and Rivals: Matt Hegarty (2011), Quenton Nelson (2014) and Tommy Kraemer (2016).
Tom Lemming, a CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst, compares Baker to former Irish left tackle Mike McGlinchey. 247Sports gave McGlinchey his highest ranking at No. 131 overall. The San Francisco 49ers drafted him with the ninth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
“At this stage, he’s a little farther along than McGlinchey was coming out of Philadelphia,” Lemming said. “Tosh was an all-state tackle. Similar size. Same basketball athletic ability that McGlinchey also had.
“It’s apples and oranges, but if I had to rank one of them higher at this stage, it would be Tosh.”
ND’s latest pledge continues its recruiting surge since April. The Irish also landed commitments from three four-star recruits in wide receiver Jordan Johnson (April 6), drop defensive end Jordan Botelho (April 18) and defensive lineman Rylie Mills (May 6).
Alex Peitsch, the nation’s best long snapper per Kohl’s Kicking Camps, chose the Irish as well on April 24. ND’s 2020 recruiting class now ranks No. 5 and No. 7 nationally on Rivals and 247Sports, respectively.
Quinn secured a quartet of four-star offensive linemen in his inaugural 2019 class: Andrew Kristofic, Zeke Correll, John Olmstead and Quinn Carroll. Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy guard Greg Crippen verbally pledged to ND’s 2021 class in late March.
“Jeff Quinn is turning out to be a great recruiter,” Lemming said.
The Irish will look to add three or four more offensive linemen for 2020. Quinn began the class by securing a highly rated target who is no longer destined to be a stretch four.
“Every time I’m on the field I try to finish everything into the ground,” Baker said. “I either finish everything into the ground or push the dude at least five yards down the field. That’s my goal each play.”
— Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) May 8, 2019
— Drew Pyne (@dpyne10) May 8, 2019