Allen Walker, the 6-1, 210-pound redshirt freshman Rebel linebacker, looked perplexed when a recent interview with him began with a "tough" question about some fan's perception of his true frosh year in 2006.
After coming out of Olive Branch, MS, as a national recruit who was also offered by National Champions Florida, many expected Walker to step in and take over at one of the safety slots.
"What's wrong with Allen Walker?" some asked.
"I've never heard that," said Walker. "I knew coming in here I had to get bigger and stronger and learn what the college game is all about. I don't know what others expected of me, but I feel I am right on target. I think this year will be my year to start contributing.
"I left spring training with a lot of confidence about playing linebacker. When I first moved to LB, I had to adjust to faster and more physical linemen trying to block me. The more experience I got in facing guys like Mike Oher, the better I got. I got my feet wet and now I feel I'm ready."
Walker believes he is in the best shape of his life.
"I've gained six pounds of muscle and am now at 210. I feel real good about myself," he noted. "I've learned a lot about being a linebacker - the biggest thing is to not let an OL get their hands on you. If you do, you are done. I'm not really worried about my weight because I can compensate with my speed in avoiding blocks until I put on more weight, which I will. I feel I will eventually be 225-230. I gained five pounds during August camp last year and expect to gain five more this year during camp. I'd like to be in the 215 range when the season begins and then put on a little muscle gradually until I reach my goal."
Allen welcomed the switch from safety to linebacker.
"When I first came here, I told Coach O I didn't care where I played as long as I could get on the field. He asked me to play LB and I was fine with it," he continued. "The pluses for me are that I will be a fast linebacker and can avoid blockers. As long as I know what I'm doing and can play downhill without thinking a lot, I feel comfortable with my future at LB.
"I understand all my plays and calls and checks. I have the defense down pat and I'm comfortable. When you know what you are doing, it makes you feel like a shark in the water instead of the prey. Knowledge eliminates the hesitation and confusion and it gives you confidence. When you aren't blocked mentally, you can just do your thing within the system."
Walker beleives in the Rebel defense, mainly because of the trickle down from having a strong defensive line.
"Our DL was so beat up last year. This year, we will be stronger and deeper up front and that will free up the linebackers more for some free shots," he explained. "Their pass rush will also cut down the coverage time for the DBs. I think we will have a lot more picks and force more turnovers. It will all feed off the strength of the DL. A healthy, deep DL is critical and I think we will have that this year."
Bottom line: nothing is "wrong" with Allen Walker. Nothing that time and experience won't heal. And, according to Allen, that may come sooner rather than later.
Allen Walker update -
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