Landon Walker became really happy with where he positioned himself by the time last year ended.
And why shouldn't he have been pleased? After sitting out as a freshman in 2007 with a red-shirt, he started in 10 of the 12 games he played in last year. His 26 knockdown blocks were the sixth best on the team.
And that was that. Somewhere, somehow Walker figured that he'd be the starter the next three years. Complacency began to set in.
"I felt like I had the spot locked down," he said. "(I thought) this is going to work out. I just have to keep doing what I'm doing and I'm going to be a four-year starter here."
At the end of the summer, Walker, Cory Lambert and J.K. Jay were slated to compete for the starting nod at right tackle. Jay was done for the season less than two weeks into camp and it became a two-man race.
Always looking for results, offensive tackle and tight end coach Danny Pearman wasn't getting any from Walker as the battle continued through camp and Lambert was named the starter. Lambert's performance against Georgia Tech left little to be desired and Walker has been named the starter against Boston College.
Fortunately there were enough results from last year to get Walker a chance to start Saturday.
"That's why he's getting the first opportunity," Pearman said. "If he hadn't performed then I wouldn't be wasting with him."
Though he didn't know it, the first news of Walker being named the starter came in the form of a text message from Pearman on Friday. As he was told, Walker showed up to the West End Zone on Sunday to meet with Coach Dabo Swinney, who informed him that he'd be starting.
"(Swinney) emphasized that he wasn't satisfied with right tackle and how it's been handled so far," Walker said. "He's going to give me another shot and see what I can do."
Impressed with the improvement showed down the stretch of last year, Swinney likes Walker's toughness and drive. But 2008 is no more. Walker must perform now.
"The biggest thing about Landon is he's got to practice better and have a little more sense of urgency and a little more attention to detail," Swinney said.
Walker will be the first to admit that he had trouble keeping up with the increased tempo during camp. Though he felt adjusted during the spring, it took almost the entire pre-season camp for him to really get used to the pace. By the time he truly felt adjusted, Lambert had been named the starter.
Though he doesn't want to use that as an excuse, Walker wasn't able to make the necessary strides during practice make a good case to be the starting right tackle. A blown assignment here and missed block there didn't warrant him being named a starter. And he knew it.
"I didn't practice as well as I wanted to. I wasn't performing as well as I thought I could during camp," Walker said.
Pearman and Swinney's arena to see results shifts from the practice fields to Death Valley.
Preparing for Boston College as the starter gives Walker an edge that he said was missing before the first two games this year. He got off to a good start at practice on Monday, according to Swinney.
"It gives you more of a conscious effort to do things better when you're in the starting position," Walker said. "You feel like you have to perfect everything you're doing because you know that come Saturday it's going to be on the line."
But he's aware that solid play is a must in order preserve the starting job for one more week.
"It's obvious that if I'm not good enough someone else should be in there," Walker said. "Hopefully I can get the job done. If I'm not, it wouldn't be fair to the team for me to be in there.
"I'm going to do the best job I can and hopefully hold this spot down for the team."
A new man
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