Everything about Thomas Booker off the football field is impressive.
Bright, cordial, inquisitive, optimistic, motivated, education-oriented, humble, appreciative of the opportunities afforded him, a team-first attitude…
There’s nothing to dislike about the person that Thomas projects himself to be.
The picture completes itself on the football field.
As Notre Dame moves forward in what continues to be a very positive gathering of student-athletes for the Class of 2018 – the recent de-commitment of cornerback Kalon Gervin notwithstanding – Booker sits atop Notre Dame’s wish list with a handful of other promising prospects.
Let’s start with the physical characteristics, specifically, his pure strength. Booker is among the 95th percentile of strength at his defensive end position in high school. He is a brick wall with a 95th percentile frame.
Booker derives his power, first and foremost, from a very strong lower base with hip and leg-drive strength. He physically overwhelms high school offensive linemen who engage him in hand-to-hand combat. Coupled with that strong lower base, he begins the process with a spring-loaded three-point stance and a quality get-off. The physical gifts take over from there.
Once he crosses the face of an offensive lineman, the combination of his strength and agility make it a done deal.
But this is not just a big dude who bull rushes his way to success, although the bulk of his work from a strongside defensive end position involves a physical dominance.
While the process of developing pass rush moves to go with his physicality will be his No. 1 challenge moving on to the next level, the athleticism that comes with the powerful package is impressive.
This is an athlete who happens to have a God-given frame that he’s developed into a powerhouse. Watch him make a twisting catch in traffic from the tight end position or a backside tackle or a 25-yard chase of a running back or a zone-blitz drop into coverage that allows him to defend the pass…He can do a little bit of everything.
While this isn’t the type of player you want running away from the line of scrimmage to defend a tight end on a pass route (a la Daelin Hayes), Booker possesses a rare athleticism for his size. That doesn’t make him a weakside defensive end prospect long-term, but it does give his future team the flexibility to move him around if desired, including on the interior if deemed necessary.
There are other subtle assets. Vision “amidst the forest” to work his way through traffic and find the ball carrier. Finesse when finesse is in order. The agility to making diving tackles when the play looks like it has gone beyond him. The change of direction of a much smaller player. Pass-deflecting ability at the line of scrimmage.
Thomas Booker is the near-complete package at strongside defensive end. If he can maximize his pass-rush ability, the “near” part will be removed.
SINCLAIR ON BOOKER
Booker recently mentioned Notre Dame, Clemson, Ohio State, Florida State and Duke among the schools pursuing him the hardest. He also includes Northwestern and Duke in the conversation because, in Booker’s words, “academics are what college is all about.”
Conspicuously absent from his recent listing is Stanford, and it’s not because the Cardinal don’t appeal to him.
“This one appears to be between Notre Dame and Stanford, and Booker has visited both,” said Irish Illustrated recruiting analyst Kevin Sinclair.
“Of course, Stanford hasn’t offered. The Irish may be the frontrunner for Booker’s signature while the Cardinal struggle to find scholarship space. If David Shaw offers, it could go either way.”
Booker says he’d like to have a decision before the start of his senior season at the Gilman School, but will push it back if he’s not ready to make a final decision. (Note: Booker’s decision likely will be final. He does not appear to a “de-commitment kind of kid.”)
Booker told Sinclair that he does not plan to attend Notre Dame’s June 10 Irish Invasion and never did because of his schedule. But that could change, and even if he doesn’t attend Irish Invasion, he will be back on campus this summer.
Booker is a cornerstone of Notre Dame’s 2018 recruiting class.