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Baker joins Irish, as does Ferrine

Pat Leonard | Wednesday, January 28, 2004

A week remains and the slow-starting Irish are crawling their way to Feb. 4 player by player.Defensive end Ryan Baker from Indianapolis gave a verbal commitment to the Irish Sunday night, though the announcement was kept under the radar. Confirming the beliefs of ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, cornerback Leo Ferrine from New Jersey committed Sunday, as well.Notre Dame has sixteen commitments with a week remaining before signing day, but not many of the players are in the top tier of heavily recruited players. Baker is also not in the top tier, but he is as close as any remaining player the Irish will find.Oklahoma, Michigan, Boston College and Purdue were all after the 6-foot-6, 225 pound strongside defensive end, rated 11th at his position on Rivals100.com. It was down to Notre Dame and Purdue after Baker’s official visit to South Bend on Jan. 16, and the Boilermakers had an advantage in that they had shown more interest.”Notre Dame wasn’t after Baker as early or often as Purdue,” Irish Insider columnist Mike Frank said. “[Baker’s decision] was a matter of asking ‘how much do they want me?'” The Irish wanted Baker and players like Ferrine, a 6-foot-one, 175 pound cornerback, because they will take a chance on any remaining prospects who could possibly help turn a struggling program around.It was obvious over the last few weeks that Tyrone Willingham and Notre Dame wanted Baker, but it is even more obvious that Baker wants Notre Dame.”The school was a great fit for me,” Baker said. “There are great people on the team. I like the players. I like the atmosphere. I like the overall demeanor of the people [on campus].”Baker hails from Bishop Chatard High School, where he played with present Notre Dame freshman baseball player and pitcher Mike Dury, a former quarterback.Baker said Tuesday night that he is looking forward to attending Notre Dame, in particular because of the leadership he will have.”Coach [Tyrone] Willingham is a very positive person,” Baker said. “He’s going to push me to be the best student/athlete I can be.”Baker’s concern with academics definitely had something to do with his commitment to the Irish, though the high school senior’s main concern is still football.”I know I have a lot of work to do,” he said. “I’ll have the challenge of playing with such great players, and I’ll have to compete. It’ll be a lot of fun, competing against and playing with guys like [Justin] Tuck and [Victor] Abiamiri.”