"Amobi (Okoye) is like my brother and if it weren't for him I wouldn't have played at all last year," Walker said. "I learned everything from him."
Okoye, who is projected to be taken among the Top 10 picks in this year's NFL Draft, would often stay after practice with the 6-4, 305-pound Walker to give him personal lessons. Walker said the future pro taught him everything from the importance of hard work to fundamental techniques.
"I'd stay after practice and he'd teach me everything - the playbook, my technique," said Walker. "I'm glad I had him in front of me because he taught me a lot about how techniques work. He had a great season last year and if there's one person to learn from, he's one."
Walker played in eight games last season, registering three tackles, including two for a loss and one sack. He also forced a fumble. Despite his relatively limited game action, Walker feels the experience he gained last season will payoff in 2007.
This spring, Walker has clearly stepped up his play. He's currently running on the second team behind junior tackle Adrian Grady. Walker has gotten a ton of reps this spring against Louisville's nationally-ranked offense and that's helped the Cardinal defense improve.
"Spring practice is great," Walker said. "The offense is still probably number one in the nation and that's helping out the defense because we get to go against the best offense."
After falling short against the offense during Saturday's scrimmage, the defense clearly got the better of their offensive counterparts during Tuesday's 11 on 11 drills. On two consecutive running plays, the defense stuffed the offense cold, holding them for no gain.
"That builds our (confidence) because these past scrimmages the offense has been a little ahead," Walker said.
Walker has also had to adjust to a new position coach this spring. After Kevin Wolthausen left with Bobby Petrino for Atlanta, Walker and his linemates have had to adjust to new line coach Mark Nelson's style.
"Both of them are great coaches," Walker said. "Coach Wolthausen was the X and O guy and Coach Nelson is more the technique, get off, more steps and stuff. Both coaches are great."
Has it been a difficult transition for Walker?
"Not really," Walker said. "With Coach Wolthausen I had one of the best players in the country in front of me in Amobi, but Coach Nelson lets everybody get their reps and a chance to go out there and prove how they're going to play."
Walker said he's made substantial improvement this spring, a development that figures to be bad news for opposing offensive lines next season.
"I've improved on a lot of things," Walker said. "Last year I wasn't anywhere near where I am now. My get off and my hands are better. The main thing I'm working on now is staying low. But everything else, my pass rushing, has improved.
"At my size, coach tells me to use my size for good. I think being one of the biggest d-linemen that we've got I have the size to close the pocket and get my hands up. They tell you on short passes to get your hands up and Coach Nelson has been stressing that."
With Walker a solid option at tackle, Louisville has a talented and deep group of linemen. Besides Walker, Grady, junior Earl Heyman and senior Willie Williams comprise the two-deep at defensive tackle. That's a pretty talented group that makes for tough competition every day in practice.
"There's competition all over the d-line, but having the competition with somebody is making me better and it's making him better," Walker said. "I'm going against Adrian Grady right now and he's one of the better defensive linemen that we have. It makes me work harder and it motivates me a lot. I was number two last year and that's going to motivate me to work hard this summer to get better."