Walker outshines Donald

Chris Donald was the instate prospect Tennessee just HAD to sign.

Donald was a Parade and USA Today All-American linebacker, an Army All-American game participant, the No. 1 talent in Tennessee.

In high school, he had 66 career tackles for loss, 27 sacks and a school-record 4,690 rushing yards.

He was a can't-miss prospect.

Chris Walker was a linebacker from Memphis who played in a Division II private school league. He made all-state but was ignored by Parade and USA Today. He was an OK catch, but not comparable to Donald.

So much for recruiting rankings and evaluations.

After more than three weeks of Tennessee's August camp, Walker has been a better player than Donald. The ``throw-in'' is a ``shoo-in'' to play as a true freshman. Both were moved to defensive end about a week ago.

``Chris Walker is ready,'' Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. ``He'll probably play some. I don't know if in this (California) ballgame, but early in the season.''

Defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell said Walker is ahead of Donald.

``He (Walker) has played more at that position, played with his hand on the ground a little bit,'' Caldwell said. ``They both have their upsides. Both are really good athletes and willing to please and do whatever if takes. It's been exciting working with them. … We'll be comfortable putting them in the game next week.''

Caldwell thinks both will stay at end. He said he thought Walker (6-3, 220 when signed) might wind up at end. Donald (6-2, 225) was projected to stay at linebacker. Caldwell said Donald has the frame and agility to be a ``special'' end.

Fulmer said he's unsure at this point whether Donald is a better end or linebacker.

``It's hard to tell,'' Fulmer said. ``It's not fair to put him over there (at end) and scrimmage the next day. He's a big, strong, athletic guy and we've got to work to find the right place for him. I believe he can play linebacker or end. He could play on offense, but I haven't talked to anybody about that.''

But one thing is clear – Walker is ahead of Donald at this point.

And that's another reason you can't always count on recruiting rankings.


Caldwell said UT's pass rush is better now than a year ago, when the ends collected a measly total of six sacks.

``I see right now great explosion out of Xavier Mitchell,'' Caldwell said. ``I think we just continue to improve, keep working our techniques and our pad leverage.''

Caldwell said Wes Brown is the quickest end off the edge.

The Vols are still waiting for Robert Ayers and Antonio Reynolds to make big plays and show consistency.

Caldwell said sometimes his pass rushers forget a key component of playing end.

``A lot of times, they want to be finesse guys rather than aggressive,'' Caldwell said. ``We're getting that across to them a lot better. I'm looking for a better rush come Saturday than we had last year.''

Last year, UT sacked Cal three times, but managed just 14 more the rest of the season.


Tennessee lost an All-American at left tackle and a fifth-year senior at left guard, but offensive line coach Greg Adkins thinks the left side of the line can be just as good this year as it was last year.

Eric Young and Anthony Parker ``are the two most experienced linemen I have,'' Adkins said. ``We thought ultimately the best decision was to move them from the right side to the left side.''

Adkins has been pleased with the results thus far in camp.

Although Young has started at left tackle in the past, he played only right tackle last season, and it took him a while to adjust. Parker has also improved as camp has progressed.

``I expect them to improve even more before we line up and play Cal,'' Adkins said.

Adkins has also been pleased with the switch of right guard Ramon Foster to right tackle and right tackle Chris Scott to right guard. Scott took more time to settle in, but he fended off Jacques McClendon for the starting spot.

``Both of them bring unique qualities to their positions,'' Adkins said. ``The great thing about it is, they are flexible enough to play either position. We may get into some situations where matchups dictate we move them around a little bit. I'm happy.''

Adkins said he's got seven or eight linemen ready to play. Ramone Johnson, Vlad Richard and McClendon appear to be the next three in the rotation.

Johnson has shown the most progress, Adkins said.

Adkins also said he likes the line's responsiveness.

``We may not be the most talented, but we've had a great attitude and great work ethic and gone out and tried to get the job done,'' Adkins said.

``Overall are we going to be better? I don't know. That's yet to be determined. But the attitude and flexibility of this group is probably better.''

Inside Tennessee Top Stories