Booker eyes season, recruiting will wait

Dante Booker (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary) knows the texts will come as the college courtship heats up this season.

But the 6-foot-3, 215-pound linebacker also knows the time is now.

That’s now as in his junior season with the Fighting Irish. Now as in the chance to bring another late run in the playoffs to his team.

That’s why he’s putting the recruiting process on the backburner so to speak.

“It’s real important to set the tone,” Booker said. “Your junior season is very important to see what kind of team you’ve got and what you’ve got.

“I’m never satisfied. I just have to go out there every day and get better. I’m going to try to be a leader for the team.”

With offers from places like Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State and Ohio State, the Buckeyes are still out in front.

But as he said, it’s still way too early in the process. So the text messages will come and he’ll answer them.

He’s learned how to deal with them through watching and playing with Division I talent like Mark Murphy (Indiana) and Doran Grant (Ohio State) at St. Vincent-St. Mary.

He’s also learned that this 11th-grade year is the one that can separate him from the rest.

“Recruiting is not a distraction for me,” Booker said. “It comes with the territory. It’s nothing new here. We’ve had Doran and ‘Murph.’ We’re used to it.

“There’s a few I talk to -- mainly text messages -- I tell them I’m ready for the season. That’s what I want to focus on. I don’t have to worry about all this recruiting.”

What Booker wants more than anything is to one-up a sophomore year that put him among the select few.

That’s a tall order considering he stood out with 157 tackles, 14 sacks, three fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles last season.

Booker is ready to break those marks as he looks to improve himself as well as the 10-3 mark of the Irish in 2011.

“He knows his main job is to play for St. Vincent-St. Mary right now,” Irish coach Dan Boarman said. “He hasn’t committed anywhere.

“Before you go to college, you have to play high school football and he understands that. He’s not getting caught up in the Urban Meyers and Brady Hokes calling him. He’s more concentrated on us. His drive isn’t necessarily to get the college scholarship, his drive his to truly be the best he possibly can be.”