Another year passes by and the Buckeyes continue to keep most of the state's top in-state talent to play their college football for the Buckeyes. St. Vincent-St Mary linebacker Dante Booker Jr. is yet another example of the Scarlet and Gray achieving this goal.
Take a trip down memory lane and find out what kind of early impact he could have for the Buckeyes, as we bring you "Bucks to the Future", the Dante Booker story.
Weight: 212 pounds
247Sports Composite: Number four outside linebacker, second ranked player in the state of Ohio, and 54th overall prospect in the 2014 recruiting class.
High School: St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, Akron, Ohio
Booker's recruitment went into full swing following a strong sophomore campaign, where he recorded 157 tackles, 14 sacks, and four forced fumbles.
Before getting too deep into the story of his recruitment, it's important to note that his father, Dante Booker, played football for the Auburn Tigers, making the younger Booker an Auburn legacy heading into the recruiting process.
His first offer came on April 13th, 2012, when Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes offered him a scholarship. It didn't take long for other schools to follow suit as over the next couple of weeks he would go on to receive offers from the likes of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Penn State, and Nebraska.
It was then time for the standout linebacker to take a couple of college visits before kicking of fhis junior season of football. He first made the trip to Ann Arbor to see what the Michigan Wolverines had to offer.
Next he made a visit to Columbus to check out Ohio State's Central Ohio campus for the first annual "Friday Night Lights" football camp. He played his recruitment close to the vest, but he definitely enjoyed his camp experience in Columbus.
He made it back to Columbus for another visit to watch the Buckeyes take on Miami (OH) in what was the first game in the Urban Meyer era. Even though many people thought Ohio State held the lead for his commitment at the time of the visit, he was not ready to commit as he still wanted to check out some other schools.
Booker then took a bit of a break from taking college visits in order to focus on his junior football season. He added two more big offers during the season from Notre Dame and Oklahoma.
In December, Booker helped the St. Vincent-St. Mary Irish to a state championship, topping Bellevue, 42-21. Booker recorded nine tackles and a sack in the game, in which Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was on hand to take in.
He would then make a couple of college visits. The next few would end up being the last ones before making his commitment.
First, he took another trip to Columbus for what would be on last look at what Ohio State had to offer him if he decided to play his college football in Columbus. He then made two trips to Notre Dame, who had been one of the most recent football programs to extend him a scholarship offer. All of these visits went pretty well. Little did people know that the standout linebacker was very close to announcing his college decision.
Booker and those close to him went pretty quiet for the next month or so as they were likely weighing the options that would factor into his college decision. Interestingly enough, Booker had yet to receive a scholarship offer from his dad's alma matter, Auburn.
Then on May 23rd, 2013, Dante Booker Jr. decided to end his recruitment and committed to play his college football for the Ohio State Buckeyes:
Dante Booker, '14 4-star LB, commits to Ohio State (@SBNRecruiting) http://t.co/snwrYo5iSS— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) May 23, 2013
It was a huge pick up for the Scarlet and Gray as Booker joined Detroit (MI) Cass Tech cornerback Damon Webb as the two elite recruits in the "Dream 14" at the time of his commitment. He was originally the ninth member of the class, but was bumped up to the 8th after Lonnie Johnson and the Bucks parted ways in the fall.
The standout linebacker was in attendance at the NFTC camp in Columbus where he earned an invite to Nike's "The Opening" after a very impressive showing at the camp.
Following the camp, I had a brief conversation with the star linebacker where we discussed his commitment to Ohio State from a couple of weeks earlier.
"It just felt like the right time," Booker said about his commitment. "We had (teammate) Parris (Campbell) going and it just felt like home."
Booker added that he had great relationships with Urban Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff and said staying close to home played a big role in his decision.
"It's real good. We talk on a frequent basis," he said. "It's an in state (school) it's not too far (from home) and it just feels like home."
He also said he was going to help recruit five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan to Ohio State (who at the time was un-committed). Booker ended up being successful in achieving that goal.
Next up for Booker was participating in The Opening at the beginning of July. He had a stellar performance that featured clocking a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash, to go along with a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in seven-on-seven play.
After The Opening, it was time for Booker to get ready for his senior season, where his main goal was to help defend his team's state title. He was named to MaxPreps All-American team and was named MaxPreps' pre-season Ohio Mr. Football before beginning his senior campaign.
The Irish ran through their schedule, with their only close call coming when they edged Danny Clark and Massillon Washington by a count of 28-23 on the road.
Booker and his teammates started their playoff run with three blowout wins. Next play took on Marion-Franklin and won in a 17-9 slugfest.
After the big win, the Irish advanced to the state championship game, where they were set to take on the Trotwood-Madison Rams with a State Championship in the line.
Led by Booker, the Irish's defense absolutely shut down the Rams' offensive attack and they went on to win the game 24-0, making it two consecutive state titles for St. Vincent-St. Mary.
He capped off an illustrious football career in the state of Ohio by taking home Ohio's Mr. Football award, which is given to the best player in the state.
At the beginning of January, Booker participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, along with many of his future teammates. He had a pretty impressive showing throughout the week.
Finally, he took his official visit to Columbus the weekend before National Signing Day, along with his teammate Parris Campbell. Just days later he faxed his National Letter of Intent to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and officially became a part of the Ohio State football team.
I think Booker is the best athlete of the linebackers the Buckeyes took in their 2014 recruiting (Sam Hubbard is close). However, I wouldn't be too shocked if he didn't see a ton of action his freshmen year as he needs to further polish his football skills a bit and add a little bulk to his frame.
I'm expecting big things from Booker during his time in Columbus, but let's not get frustrated if he's not a force on the field in year one. He has load of potential and could end up being a tremendous linebacker.
It's going to be a lot of fun to watch his development over the course of his career in Columbus.
Land-Grant Holy Land football analyst Christopher Jason had the following to say about Booker's game after reviewing some highlights:
Booker will need to bulk up to play linebacker at the next level, but his speed and blitzing ability jump off the screen. He diagnoses run plays very quickly, darting through holes and making a lot of plays in the backfield. To me, Booker looks like the prototypical, every-down weakside linebacker who is a menace in the run game and also has the athleticism to drop back into pass coverage. He times his blitzes very well and explodes through the line of scrimmage. He may not be able to play on defense his first season, but he should find his way onto a few special teams units.
Did you know...
- Booker attended the same high school as NBA star LeBron James. In fact, James bought new jerseys for the football team to wear during their historic run.
- LeBron is not the only former standout athlete from St. Vincent-St Mary with an Ohio State connection. Senior too be cornerback Doran Grant also graduated from the Akron area school.
- In addition to those two, fellow 2014 signee Parris Campbell is attending Ohio State, meaning the two will be chasing championships together yet again.