ALL IS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD
The sixth edition of the Better Know a Buckeye series continues with the eighth installment, profiling Dante Booker. Booker joins high school teammate Parris Campbell as a combo deal in Ohio State's 2014 recruiting class.
Though he committed after his high school teammate, Booker was the original apple of Ohio State's eye through 2012. By whatever measure you use, Booker is the top-rated player in Ohio for this recruiting class. If he is listed second, he is behind future teammate Erick Smith for that honor.
Though Booker's recruitment began in the spring of 2012, it was mostly uneventful. Booker acquired offers from near and far. However, Ohio State was always the school to beat. He committed to Ohio State in May of last year. I recap his recruitment in the next section.
The profile continues in the usual fashion thereafter. I discuss Booker's strengths and areas for improvement. I conjecture about a possible redshirt in 2014 for Booker. Then, I provide some highlights for you to watch before concluding with miscellaneous things about Dante Booker you may find interesting.
High School: St. Vincent–St. Mary High School; Akron
Dante Booker's recruitment starts in the spring of 2012 when he was extended a scholarship to Ohio State after his sophomore year of football. It was his first scholarship offer. It was also not a bad way to effectively start his recruitment.
Booker received words of the offer via a telephone call with Urban Meyer, who informed him he had a scholarship waiting for him in Columbus. It came shortly after an unofficial visit to Columbus. Booker vowed to take another one.
Thereafter, offers, and big ones, came for Booker. Through April and May of 2012, Booker acquired offers from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, and Penn State. In the following autumn of his junior year, he also acquired offers from Notre Dame and Oklahoma.
However, Ohio State was always the team to beat even as Booker professed to wanting more recognition and offers from SEC schools like Auburn and Louisiana State. Interest in Ohio State picked up through the summer when he attended the first Friday Night Lights camp at Ohio State. His father recounted that they both had a great time at the event. More importantly, Booker had a great time talking with former Ohio State players like Mike Doss, Andy Katzenmoyer, and Orlando Pace. He also interacted with the coaching staff, particularly Meyer and then-regional recruiter and defensive line coach Mike Vrabel.
Though Booker took an unofficial visit to Notre Dame in the fall of his junior year, Ohio State was still the team to beat. The critical juncture in his recruitment was the 2012 state championship game against Bellevue, which ended in a decisive 42-21 victory for St. Vincent-St. Mary. Without a postseason for which to prepare after concluding an undefeated season, Ohio State's coaches went on a recruiting blitz and arrived en masse to Fawcett Stadium for this game.
Booker had a game-high nine tackles in a game, though his teammate, Parris Campbell, stole the show with a rushing performance of 165 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns. This game cemented Ohio State as the leader for the duration of Booker's recruitment and started Parris Campbell's recruitment to Ohio State. Campbell was offered a scholarship to Ohio State two months later and committed on the spot.
Booker's recruitment dragged for a few months after that, though there was little drama to the eventual decision. Booker had no known timetable for a decision. He was on that January 12-13 unofficial visit with Parris Campbell and took two unofficial visits to Notre Dame after that. However, he was going to be a Buckeye eventually.
"Overall I just felt right to pull the trigger... It feels like home and it's the best place to be right now to play college football. I wanted to play for my family and all the fans in the Horseshoe two hours away."
Eleven Warriors also interviewed him shortly after the NFTC combine at Ohio State and asked him about the decision.
Though Booker had his pick of college choices, including big programs like Michigan and Oklahoma, the primary competition for the Catholic school product was Notre Dame.
Where He Excels
Unlike Kyle Berger in the last profile and Sam Hubbard in the profile before that, Booker seems to be a weakside linebacker if he sees the field for Ohio State. Berger is a strongside linebacker prospect who could slide inside to middle linebacker and Hubbard could grow into a weakside defensive end.
There is a lot to like in Booker's film and a lot that underscores his position as almost a consensus top-two player in the state of Ohio.
Booker plays the linebacker position fast. Some of that is sheer speed. The closing speed he demonstrates in film makes him look like a one-man drive killer. More of that is timing and awareness. Booker times blitzes very well, which allows him to accentuate his closing speed to finish plays behind the line of scrimmage.
He demonstrates great lateral agility too, ideal for a linebacker in his position. He has the athleticism to get sideline to sideline to stop running plays. He can also turn his hips and pick up a tight end in pass coverage.
In short, Ohio State fans have reason to be excited about Booker's addition to the linebacker corp.
Must Work On
Booker is tall but not necessarily big. His high school coach is aware of this and thinks Booker has another growth spurt in him. College football players usually do as they focus exclusively on their craft. Still, strength is an area for improvement.
This one is tough as I am still learning about how Meyer approaches redshirting true freshmen. My guess is no, but I also do not think he gets a lot of playing time on defense. He might be a special team player in his freshman year.
This should be a mix of his junior and senior year. I think the first play is his forced fumble from the 2012 state championship game.
- Father, also Dante Booker, played for Auburn in the early 2000s. If Auburn had jumped into the fray earlier, it's conceivable Booker's recruitment would have looked a little bit different. It may not have mattered to the final outcome, though.
- He participated in The Opening combine in Oregon, along with almost everyone else in his recruiting class. He had a pick six in a seven-on-seven drill.
- St. Vincent-St. Mary repeated as state champions in Booker's senior season. The Irish won 24-0 in the state championship game over Trotwood-Madison.
- Participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl along with Johnnie Dixon, Marcelys Jones, Jaylyn Holmes, Demetrius Knox, Marshon Lattimore, Curtis Samuel, Erick Smith, and Damon Webb. He had a good week of practice in San Antonio, though was rather quiet through the exhibition itself.
- He was named Mr. Football in Ohio in 2013.
- He and Raekwon McMillan are the only two Buckeyes to be named All-Americans by Parade.
- Recipient of the American Family Insurance defensive player of the year award.
- Finished the season with 113 tackles and two interceptions.