Dolphins rookie LB Jerome Baker says you won’t think he’s small once he hits you

Jerome Baker will make a run at claiming a starting linebacker job. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — Jerome Baker’s heard it his whole life. Even when he was dominating youth leagues and high school football, everyone kept telling him he was too small.

And at every turn, he’s quieted those concerns. Ohio State and Florida went to battle trying to recruit him, and his time with the Buckeyes was impressive enough that the Dolphins took him in the third round of the draft with the thought that he could be a long-term answer at linebacker.

[Photos: Miami Dolphins rookies report to minicamp]

They felt good about what he can do at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds with a 4.4 time in the 40-yard dash, and Baker plans to show people once again that there’s nothing small about the way he plays.

“If you ask anybody that plays against me, they don’t mention my size at all,” he said. “Guys say it, but once I actually play against you, you really don’t even notice how small or big I am. It’s all good.”

Baker’s most appealing attribute is his ability in coverage, which would help the Dolphins shore up a deficiency that hurt them last year. He had 72 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three pass breakups for Ohio State last season.

Miami goes into the season with Raekwon McMillan, another Buckeye, returning at middle linebacker and Kiko Alonso a certain starter on the outside. Baker is competing for role against a group that includes Mike Hull, Chase Allen, Stephone Anthony and seventh-rounder Quentin Poling.

All of the team’s linebackers are taller and bigger than Baker except for Hull (6-foot, 232 pounds) and Poling (6-foot, 235 pounds).

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Dolphins rookies Mike Gesicki, Jerome Baker resume college battles

Dolphins rookie Mike Gesicki matched up one-on-one with new teammate Jerome Baker in college. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE—The Dolphins’ second- and third-round draft picks faced each other in college, and they’re about to spend the next month and beyond going head to head again.

Jerome Baker is the type of linebacker who can cover tight ends, and that’s exactly how Ohio State used him against Penn State: to handle Mike Gesicki. He covered Gesicki each of the last two years, and that’s almost certainly going to be an ongoing assignment for him when Organized Team Activities begin.

[Photos: Miami Dolphins rookies report to minicamp]

“He’s a great player and he’s definitely gonna compete,” Baker said. “Individually, he’s big and he can go get the ball. But I look at it from a team aspect. He got me one year and I got him the last one.”

Penn State spoiled the Buckeyes’ bid for an undefeated season by beating them in 2016, and Ohio State squeaked by with a 39-38 victory last year.

Gesicki totaled 10 catches for 113 yards in the two games, while Baker had 11 tackles including 1.5 for negative yardage.

Gesicki was a major matchup problem in college because of his 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame and a 41-inch vertical leap to go with it, and the Dolphins are hoping he’ll continue to be a threat in the passing game as a pro.

Baker, meanwhile, is just 6-foot-1, 225 pounds and has always been knocked for his size. It would be particularly disadvantageous against Gesicki, but he held his own.

“Ohio State was a big game for us each and every year, and he was the leader of their defense,” Gesicki said. “There were situations where me and him were matched up together and all that kind of stuff. He’s a great player, really athletic, uses his speed to his advantage.

“People are gonna say whatever they’re gonna say (about his size). He’s a great example of blocking that out and getting to where he is today without listening to that.”

[Miami Dolphins’ 2018 salary cap spending shows their priorities]

[Takeaways from the Yahoo! Sports scouting series on the Dolphins]

[Parkland-Douglas football team makes Miami Dolphins draft announcements]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.