Rushawn Bakers running the 55m Mondo Dash on 12/7/20 at Armory Combine (Below)
VICTOR, NY - With the high school football season in New York being pushed to March 2021, players that may be teetering on the fence of potentially earning a scholarship are in a difficult situation. Without being able to attend college camps coupled with no game film, college coaches may be hesitant to pull the trigger on a “committable” offer to players that they wanted to see more film on during their senior year. Class of 2021 running back, Rushawn Baker (Victor High School) was not one of those players. With his strong academic background, work ethic and athletic traits, he was going to earn a scholarship somewhere.
With the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility to Fall athletes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, schools will potentially have upwards of 20-30 additional scholarships to fund. Couple this with athletic department budgets being cut or frozen and there may very well be players who are scholarship worthy that do not receive a scholarship for the 2021 year.
Although Baker has clear scholarship talent, he was aware of the possibility that “committable” offers may not have been an option if he waited until the regular signing period in February 2021.
When asked why he decided to sign early with Bucknell, Baker explained that it was a combination of factors.
“Conversations with the coaching staff and some current Bucknell players definitely played a role in my decision,” said Baker. “They asked me a lot of open ended questions that allowed me to think and respond. That was important to me. Those relationships were important.”
Baker also lauded the aesthetics of the campus and the location. “The campus is beautiful and less than 3 hours away from home so my mom, coaches and the community can come to see me play,” said Baker.
After seeing Baker live at the Armory Combine on December 7, 2020, his performance solidified my opinion that he could compete at the FBS level. He has a desirable NFL body-type right now at 5’11 – 222lbs. Those 222lbs are wrapped in a tight-skinned, well-proportioned upper and lower frame. When I first saw Baker at the Prospect NYS Power 50 Showcase in Utica, NY, two years ago, I had questions on whether or not he had peaked in terms of his physical development. It is rare to see teenagers with such a developed body-type at such a young age. When Baker exploded in the first heat of the 55m Mondo Dash, he was “twitchier” and even more explosive from two years prior. He clocked a 6.81 - 55m while hitting 22.013 MPH which was the 3rd fastest out of 107 participants. But what do those numbers actually mean?
Tracking Football, who partnered with Prospect NYS, Athletics Westchester and The Armory, is an athletic analytics service that uses track and field data to calculate a “Player Athletic Index”. Player's are given a score between 0 and 5 using an algorithm. Tracking Football now has over 90,000 players in their database and is used by over 40 colleges and scouts at the Reese’s Senior Bowl to aid in the process of evaluating players. Based on Baker’s results, he scored a 3.0 PAI (Player Athletic Index) which places him at the FBS level. This data point supported the grades I assigned Baker after watching 2 full games.
A few people reached out to me asking if he had any “Stars”. I have my own thoughts on the various “Star” ratings that are out there, but that would require a separate article. I will say this. The process used by the various media outlets that put out “Stars” is flawed in many ways. I did quickly Google Baker to see if he had any “Stars” and one supposedly reputable site had his name but nothing else which was a head scratcher. Baker is exactly the type of player people will say was a “sleeper” or “under-recruited” which is flat out false. Prospect NYS has the film, live evaluation and contextualized data to back up that he is an FBS talent and he didn’t just come out of nowhere. Regardless of my opinion, Baker landed where he was meant to be and he is extremely grateful for the opportunity to have his education paid for at an excellent academic institution. He will add value to the Bucknell community not just as an athlete, but as a scholar who will do great things in his life after football.