Ohio State’s practice ran long on Thursday, and Dante Booker said he was famished as he talked to reporters.

“I’m going to go up there and eat,” the Ohio State linebacker said, gesturing to the players’ lunchroom at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

But that’s hardly the only hunger Booker feels these days. His 2016 season ended after only 12 plays because of a knee injury. The Akron native and 2013 Ohio Mr. Football suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in the season opener against Bowling Green.

It wasn’t apparent right away that Booker would miss the rest of the season. Coach Urban Meyer repeatedly indicated that Booker might return. But Booker said that only at the end of the regular season did he feel healthy enough to play. With his replacement, Jerome Baker, having emerged as a star, there was no reason to return and burn a year of eligibility.

“I wouldn’t have been able to help my team,” Booker said. “The way Jerome was playing, that would have been a dumb decision.”

With Chris Worley moving to middle linebacker following the departure to the NFL of Raekwon McMillan, Booker and Baker will be on the field together as starting outside linebackers.

“After last year, missing that year, it created an even greater fire, which I’ve always had,” Booker said. “But I feel it’s burning even brighter now.”

Booker played on special teams on the 2014 national title team and got almost 100 snaps in 2015, but he is mostly an unknown to outsiders. But those inside the program believe Booker, a fourth-year junior, has all the qualities to emerge quickly as a star.

“He’s doing great,” Meyer said. “He’s one of my favorite players. He’s just a good guy who works his tail off — it’s not been easy for him — and he’s had a very good camp so far.”

Though the Buckeyes want their outside linebackers to be interchangeable, Booker is likely to see most of his time as the so-called walkout linebacker pioneered by Darron Lee. At 240 pounds, Booker is much thicker than Lee but has similar speed.

“He’s a big, explosive athlete, and he’s out in space,” new linebackers coach Billy Davis said. “So if you want to put a receiver on him, he can run. He’s good enough to cover. And if you want to try to block him with a receiver to get the perimeter run going, it’s a long day. When you have that combination of size and speed like he has, we can take advantage of it.”

Davis had a behind-the-scenes role with the Buckeyes last year, and it was enough to get a sense of Booker’s gifts, as well as his determination. In fact, he questioned whether it was possible for Booker’s hunger to be stoked even higher.

“With Dante, I don’t know if there’s any such thing as extra,” Davis said. “He is so driven. He wants it so bad. As long as I’ve known him, he’s that driven. He is full throttle and wants it as bad as anyone I’ve been around.”

Now it’s just a matter of staying healthy and proving it on the field.

“I’m starving to get out there,” Booker said.

He wasn’t referring to lunch.