Entering His Fourth Year at Ohio State, Dante Booker Might Finally Get Chance to Show What He Can Do

By Tim Shoemaker on March 27, 2017 at 10:10 am
Ohio State linebacker Dante Booker might finally get his chance this season.

As with any team, Ohio State has some question marks heading into its 2017 season.

How will the Buckeyes overcome the loss of three members in the secondary for the second-straight year? With Kevin Wilson now at the controls, will the offense get back to what it was during the national championship campaign in 2014? Can Ohio State return to the College Football Playoff for the third time in four seasons?

These are general inquiries, broad questions about the overall landscape of this year’s Buckeyes. We won’t get many of those answers until the actual football starts.

Right now, though, Ohio State is in the middle of spring practice. The Buckeyes are two weeks in as they prepare for the spring game scheduled for Saturday, April 15. This is a time when Ohio State — and its fans — can potentially find some answers to questions that are a bit less complex.

One of those stems from the defensive side of the football and that is trying to figure out who, exactly, Dante Booker is. The redshirt junior linebacker is a bit of a mystery to everybody outside the walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, yet he’s been a starter in spring practice for the last two seasons.

Booker was slated to be the Buckeyes’ starting WILL linebacker in 2016, replacing a three-year starter in Joshua Perry. He went through spring practice and then solidified his spot in fall camp. When Ohio State opened the season at home against Bowling Green, Booker started at one linebacker spot alongside Raekwon McMillan and Chris Worley.

But the Akron native suffered a knee injury in that game — it was later revealed to be an MCL sprain — that sidelined him for a couple of weeks. In his absence, then-sophomore Jerome Baker filled in and emerged into a star. Booker didn’t play the rest of the season.

McMillan left early for the NFL and Worley slid over to the middle, so that left Ohio State with an open spot at the SAM linebacker spot this spring. Throughout the first two weeks of spring practice, it has been Booker running with the first-team defense in that position.

For two years now, it appears Booker will be a starting linebacker for the Buckeyes. Nobody has really seen him play many snaps, though.

So, who, exactly, is Dante Booker? The people who are around him every day offered some insight.

“I see a guy that has a burning desire to be great,” Worley said of Booker. “That’s something you look for in a team and in a coach on a team, honestly. A lot of times you see guys get hurt and they walk around with their head down and just feel like, ‘Aw, maybe next year.’ I saw last year a guy that wouldn’t take no for an answer. It just happened to be his body wasn’t ready for it.”

So while he was hurt, Booker did whatever he could to help the guy who took his spot.

“Even when Book was out, he still helped me out, still helped the guys out,” Baker said. “Nothing’s really changed as far as his mind. It’s Book. He gives you energy, he gives you so much passion that this year you just want to see him succeed.

“He got hurt last year but this year but this year he’s back and I’m definitely excited to see what he can do.”

Ohio State fans are, too.

Booker came to Columbus as one of the Buckeyes’ more highly-touted recruits in the 2014 class. He was a four-star prospect and the nation’s fourth-ranked outside linebacker out of St. Vincent–St. Mary High School. He was the No. 54-rated player in the country.

Now, as Booker prepares to enter his fourth year at Ohio State, he’ll finally get his chance to start — barring an unforeseen setback like the one that occurred last year.

“I’m excited about Dante,” new linebackers coach Bill Davis said recently. “Dante is a special athlete and we’ve got him out in space because he’s got a lot of speed, quickness and ability to change directions.”

“We’re excited to see how Book grows out there.”

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