EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Several days after Michigan State's disheartening loss in the Capital One Bowl, running back Edwin Baker turned his focus toward the 2011 season.
Baker always has motivated himself with tangible goals, and the coming season would be no different.
In high school, Baker set the bar at 1,000 rushing yards per season. He racked up 1,295 yards as a prep junior and finished with 863 yards as a senior despite missing four games with a hyper-extended knee. Before last season, he once again targeted 1,000 rushing yards and finished with 1,201 to go along with 13 touchdowns.
But Baker really raised the stakes for himself in 2011. His magic numbers are 2,000 rush yards and 21 touchdowns.
"It's definitely a big difference," Baker said. "But if I want to be an elite player, I have to make elite goals."
Baker's goals aren't totally random. He knows that Michigan State has had only one 2,000-yard rusher in a season, as Lorenzo White racked up 2,066 yards in 1985.
The 21 touchdowns would tie Baker for second on Michigan State's single-season list with former bruiser Jehuu Caulcrick. Former Spartans All-American Javon Ringer holds the record with 22 scores in 2008.
Baker understands the lofty goals mean nothing unless he backs them up this fall. And it'll take a lot of work to come close to his magic numbers.
The 5-foot-9, 208-pound Baker always has stood out in the weight room, earning the nickname "Rock" for his physique. His body hasn't changed, but Baker spent much of the offseason working on his mind.
"I've been watching a lot more film, trying to get my football IQ up," Baker said. "I'm trying to read defenses with [quarterback] Kirk Cousins, and I'm picking up more and more every day at practice. Just trying to become a complete football player."
Despite Baker's production as the team's featured back in 2010, Michigan State's spring depth chart showed three co-starters in the backfield: Baker, sophomore Le'Veon Bell and junior Larry Caper, Baker's roommate. Bell was extremely impressive in the first half of the 2010 season, while Caper looked like the team's running back of the future in 2009.
Coach Mark Dantonio calls the running back situation "very competitive," but Baker has only helped himself this spring.
"He gained a lot of confidence a year ago in his play," offensive coordinator Dan Roushar said of Baker. "He has a whole other level of maturity. He's going into his third season here, and it's showing in the way he's playing."
Several ex-Spartans now in the NFL have spent time around the Skandalaris Football Center this spring, including Ringer. Baker has latched onto the former Michigan State star, who had 390 carries and 1,637 rush yards in 2008.
"I always want to know, what can I do to get better?" Baker said. "He says, 'Go out there and be you. Play hard and run hard and don't try to make things that aren't there.' Like [running backs coach Brad] Salem always says, 'You've got to get four [yards] to get 44.' The big plays are going to happen."
Baker will need plenty to reach his goals this fall.
"I reached my goal last year," he said. "Now I'm going to reach for a much bigger goal."