Your Georgia Bulldogs will take to the practice field in less than a month to begin preparations for the 2017 season. Which players are most likely to step up and shape that season? We’ll be addressing that question in this new feature, counting down 10 ‘Dawgs Poised to Pounce. Today’s spotlight player? Junior linebacker D’Andre Walker.
D’Andre Walker is a man with a very simple role. The junior outside linebacker is situated squarely on the second string by virtue of the return of seniors Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter. Bellamy and Carter are about as entrenched as anyone on the UGA defense, and are both angling for the kind of season that can turn a college standout into an NFL millionaire.
D’Andre Walker’s job is to be what those guys were in 2016: a talented former blue chip recruit making the next step. The former Langston Hughes High standout has played in all 26 games of his UGA career, 13 each as a freshman and sophomore. But he’s never started a one. That’s because in both seasons the Red and Black were stacked with guys in front of him. In addition to Carter and Bellamy Walker’s played behind the likes of current New York Jet Jordan Jenkins and Chicago Bear Leonard Floyd. It’s not Walker’s turn yet. But it will be soon. And 2017 will be all about positioning himself to become the guy next year.
Kirby Smart singled Walker out this spring for his intensity in practice, and he was awarded the coveted Coffee County Hustle Award, given to the player who shows the most desire during the spring. If you watched him at all in 2016 you saw it in games as well. The 6’3, 223 pounder is perhaps a little on the small side for a 3-4 outside linebacker. But Walker’s fast-twitch style makes him a dangerous pass rusher.
That style translated over to the stats page as he tallied seven QB pressures, good for third on the roster ahead of a host of players who saw the field more often (he racked up nineteen total tackles). Part of that is that Walker tended to be off the field on obvious rushing downs, because he’s not as good holding the edge as the 240 pound-plus Carter and Bellamy.
In 2016 Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker made a tacit bargain with D’Andre Walker: we’ll get you on the field in the situation that best fits your skill set, as long as you give us balls-to-wall effort when you’re between the chalk lines. For the most part, both parties upheld their end of the deal.
But 2017 is the year when D’Andre Walker will be tasked with showing that he can become an every down player who remains a lethal pass rusher when called upon. If he can do that, it will be D’Andre Walker getting the NFL buzz in 2018. Until later . . .