"There just was never a need, in Reggie's mind, to be that big-time player," Wallerstedt said of the 2006 season. "He accepted his role, but was not excited about the responsibilities of being the man."
Saying that he always liked Walker's "motor for the game," Wallerstedt said, "Reggie needs to stay in it mentally. When he does, he's really a good football player. Reggie has been a little immature in his play, but he's also come a long way in the last year. I know he's taking his game seriously this year."
Walker, a 6-foot-1, 231-pound junior, demonstrated that Saturday when he scored six tackles, nailed the quarterback once, and picked off his first career interception in the 23-13 loss to the Tigers.
"I thought I did OK, but there are always plays where you wish you would have played better," Walker said in defining his own play. "This is my time. I'm supposed to make plays."
And yes, Walker said he heard the "your time is now" message from his position coach during two-a-days.
"I wouldn't say that I stepped back last year with those guys around, but I should have performed better," said Walker, who had 36 tackles last year.
Saturday, Walker played with focus and adrenalin.
He compared his first career sack of quarterback Brandon Cox to "going down a roller coaster," and of the interception said, "That was a thrill, too."
The Sacramento, Calif., native added, "I'm supposed to make plays this year from the inside and I had some opportunities. If you play within the 3-4 defense, those big plays are going to come."
There's a defensive axiom that goes ... there's nothing that a good pass rush won't cure. It's with that mindset that this Wildcat defense will be playing.
"Every play we want to get the pass rush going," Walker said. "Every single play. If we don't have a pass rush, our defense is going to fail ... period."
The plan worked against Auburn as K-State had five sacks - Rob Jackson (2), Antwon Moore, Walker, plus a shared sack by Ian Campbell and Steven Cline -- plus had a total of 10 tackles for losses and eight quarterback hurries.
Oh yes, throw in four passes broken up and a pair of interceptions.
All are numbers that lead coach Ron Prince to say, "I'm very bullish and positive about our defense."
And so are the Wildcat players.
"It's going to be hard for offensive coordinators to figure out where the blitz and pressure will be coming from," said end Rob Jackson. "It's very versatile and will be hard to figure out."
Safety Marcus Watts, who had seven tackles and an interception against Auburn, said, "This past game showed how aggressive we are going to be all season. We are not going to sit back and let teams get three- or four-yard runs. We are going to come after them with everything that we have. We have enough playmakers on defense that we can run this style of defense."
Watts went on to compare the this year's team speed of this defense only slightly below that of the 2003 team that featured the likes of Josh Buhl, Bryan Hickman, Andrew Shull and Rashad Washington.