Walker leaves back burner for top of chart

B.T. WALKER, a guy on the "back burner" last season, now finds himself up front for the cornerback-starved Washington State Cougars. The 6-1, 167-pound senior will head into fall camp as the No. 1 corner on the left side, lending credibility to the old adage about what a difference a year makes.

Last year, after his planned early arrival in Pullman was delayed, and a transcript glitch derailed him further, Walker was actually concerned his career may be over.

By the time the JC transfer was out of the proverbial woods, he'd missed spring workouts and a chunk of fall camp. With it went his notions of landing a starting job by the time the Cougs broke fall camp.

"I didn't know if I was ever going to play football again. Then I came in late in August last year. I didn't have enough time to know the defense well enough before the Auburn game. It put me on the back burner," said Walker.

While the Cougs were holding their first scrimmage of August, Walker was on the sidelines, getting in his NCAA-mandated number of padless practices.

He wound up playing in 10 of the Cougars' 12 games -- mostly on special teams -- and posted two tackles.

Now, though, he's staring at prime time. Last season's starters, Tyron Brackenridge and Don Turner, are graduated.

And Walker was able to do what he couldn't a year ago: compete in the spring season.

He and Markus Dawes came out of the 12-practice, 3-scrimmage session as the starting corners.

"I'm just keeping it humble and trying to stay really focused," Walker said of his spot atop the depth chart. "I've learned a lot since I've been here. I've been humbled. And I'm just trying to be a better teammate and player. I've taken a lot of knowledge from coach (Ken) Greene and coach (Leon) Burtnett."

While most of his teammates are spending a few weeks back home before voluntary workouts begin in Pullman next month, Walker is staying put.

"I just have to keep working hard and keep listening to coach Greene. I feel like I already had my vacation last year," said Walker.

THE BATTLE AT CORNER figures to be supercharged when fall camp opens in August. Besides Walker and Dawes, senior Brian Williams and junior Ryan Kensok will resume their bids, and two newcomers with high expectations around them -- Chima Nwachukwu and Devin Giles will be making bids for early playing time.

"I think coach Greene is excited about the incoming players. So that will be a challenge for me, but I have no problem with competition," said Walker.

The secondary is particularly important to what Bill Doba, the head coach is back as the Cougs' d-coordinator, wants to do on defense. And Walker says the Cougar secondary is capable of surprising people next season. A football junkie, Walker notes the 2002 Miami Hurricanes to illustrate the point.

"You never know, it could be like the Miami defense when they lost all those players, Phillip Buchanon, Ed Reed, and they came back with Shawn Taylor and Antrel Rolle and the other guys. You never know how the (new starters) are going to be until they play," said Walker.

He also points out the receiver group, projected to be the Cougars' strength this upcoming season, and how that will help the corners.

"I think they're extremely good," said Walker. "I think they're making us so much better. They're physical -- Brandon Gibson, he's a physical receiver. Charles Dillon is too and he can jump out of the gym. And the receivers coach, coach Levenseller, he was a great player at Washington State and he's a great coach.

"You keep going against those guys, you're going to get better. At first you might get exposed and it might be hard, but you're going to get better."

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