Walker to help UT ... somewhere

The first thing you noticed about freshman linebacker Chris Walker at Tennessee's Picture Day on Saturday was that he was wearing a defensive end's number (84).

He wouldn't be the first linebacker signee to wind up at defensive end for the Vols but the 6-3, 220-pound Memphian says that isn't the plan ... at least, not yet. Asked if he's concerned that he was issued an end's number, Chris Walker laughed.

"Nah," he said. "This is the number I wanted. It was my high school number. I'm trying to set a trend. This is my number, so I wanted to wear it."

Walker will be working as an outside linebacker when the pads go on Tuesday. He doesn't know yet if he'll play the weak side, the strong side or perhaps both. He says it doesn't really matter.

"Playing both might get me on the field quicker," he said, "but most of the linebackers we have play multiple positions, so it's just going to come down to me knowing the stuff."

Walker is a superior athlete. In addition to being a two-time first-team all-state pick in football, he was rated one of the top 20 basketball players in Memphis last winter by The Commercial Appeal. He hopes to parlay that athleticism into a standout linebacking career at UT.

"I bring a lot of speed and toughness," he said. "But a lot of the guys have speed. They're not all as tall as me but they're really fast and they know their stuff up and down. The key will be how quick I pick up on things, and I think it's going to be fun learning from them. I want to get in there, soak it up and learn from the other guys like (Jerod) Mayo and (Ryan) Karl and Rico (McCoy)."

Walker also is eager to learn from defensive coordinator John Chavis, who has shown a knack for producing NFL-caliber linebackers such as Scott Galyon, Al Wilson, Raynoch Thompson, Eric Westmoreland, Eddie Moore, Kevin Burnett, Omar Gaither and Marvin Mitchell.

"I like Coach Chavis," Walker said. "He's really intense. He wants us to play hard-nosed football, and that's what I like. I want to learn everything I can from Chief; he's one of the greatest in the game."

In time, Chris Walker may join the list of great Tennessee linebackers. He understands he has a lot of progress to make first, though.

"I've got to get my footwork and everything down," he said. "There's a lot of stuff we have to learn. I think I'll be fine once I learn it all. I'm just taking it one step at a time with that."

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