Traveling throughout the Southeast to some of the biggest college football games of the young season, Darius Walker is perhaps second only to ESPN College GameDay in his coverage of top schools the last several weeks. He was in Auburn for the nationally hyped matchup against USC to kick off the season. He was in Tallahassee for Florida State's thumping of Maryland. And last week Walker traveled to Tuscaloosa for an Alabama home affair against Kentucky. For a recruit who says he will take the bulk of his official visits in January, this elite running back is making good progress on evaluating his gargantuan list of schools.
The trip to Alabama left a very positive impression on the highly touted recruit. "The pregame activities really impressed me," Walker describes. "The players come out early and go the center of the field in a circle. They jump all around and get hyped, which is similar to what we do [at Buford]. That struck a chord with me. I got to spend time with Shawn Williams, their starting running back, and he told me some things to like about the school. I also got to meet some of the offensive line. Four or five coaches talked to me. The running backs coach seemed down to earth, and I also liked the defensive ends coach."
Despite his road trip to Tuscaloosa, though, Walker did not receive any face time with 'Bama head coach Mike Shula. Nor did he receive an offer from one of the few schools in the region (or the country) yet to take the leap. "I didn't go there to try and pry an offer out of them," the recruit comments. "I was interested in what they had to offer."
Most national powers handed out offers to Walker last winter or spring, but one blockbuster offer has come recently that has grabbed his attention. "The first day of calls this month, Miami called me up and made the offer," he proudly recalls. "They said they are looking for winners and players used to being on winning teams. I'm still trying to take this whole recruitment one day and team at a time, but for a powerhouse like Miami to be interested in me is cool."
Walker's list remains in the ballpark of ten top teams, which leaves him largely unchanged in his publicly disclosed favorites since the spring. He says that he will be narrowing the list soon, however. "I'll cut the list down during the season after I see a few more games," he allows. "I'm looking at the offensive line play of schools and their defense. I want to see if their offense is rolling. Is their quarterback play strong. Are they dynamic in special teams. I'm really looking at the complete team, not just the running game. At the same time I am looking through media guides and depth charts a lot, getting good insight into the running back situations at my schools."
That scrutiny some pressure on Stanford to put together wins and complete game performances to earn Walker's praise, though they already appear to be ahead of several teams in this race. The first official visit this prized running back has set up will take him to The Farm the weekend of January 9, which is a welcome vote of confidence in the Cardinal.
"The [Stanford] coaches are telling me what they offer beyond football, which is a big part of my decision," he offers. "My parents and relatives are also all big on academics. The other thing that has me excited is the environment. They send me post cards that show the campus, and it just looks beautiful. I can't wait to get out there."
While Walker balks at naming any top school, or even a top three or five, he does say that Stanford has a "really big chance" for his signature coming National Letter of Intent Day. Well, who else has that big chance alongside the Cardinal today? Walker answers with Ohio State and Notre Dame. The Irish are not a new answer, as he has held them as one of his favorites for several months. But the Buckeyes appear to have made a leap forward into that upper crust.
"The Maurice Clarrett situation is playing a role," the running back recruit says. "I liked them already, but these recent events could create a big opportunity for me to come in and make a big impact right away. I'll likely take an official there, probably in January."
Regardless of the success of Stanford's recruiting efforts and January official visit, the Cardinal coaches must bring Walker through the University's admissions process in a timely and successful manner. The good news is that he says he is all done with his application and is about to put it in the mail. Walker also has an SAT retake set for October 11, which will be another important event in this process.
As if SAT preparation, a nightly onslaught of coaching calls, and a weekly slate of unofficial visits were not enough, Darius Walker also has the business of his senior football season to tend to. He started his final campaign at Buford High School (2-0) succesfully with 102 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the first half of a 45-0 blowout win against Central Carrollton two weeks ago. Last night he took part in yet another landslide effort, this time helping Buford roll to 52-0 lead in the first half before the dogs were called off. Walker tallied another pair of touchdowns, including a 40-yard score in the first quarter. He totaled 124 yards in all on just seven carries. A big test looms for Walker's Wolves, though, in two weeks when they will face Greater Atlanta Christian in a highly touted showdown.
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