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D'Andre Walker (15) was named on the watchlist for the 2018 Butkus Award.

Could D’Andre Walker emerge as one of the top LBs in college football this season?

Cy Brown

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Is D’Andre Walker on the verge of a breakout season?

It’s late in the college football offseason a.k.a watchlist season. On Monday, the Butkus Award, given annually to the best linebacker in college football and held by Georgia’s own Roquan Smith, got in on the action with a 51-player list of its own, including Georgia OLB D’Andre Walker.

In general, I think watchlists are a dumb exercise. If you put players from 50 or so different schools on a watchlist, that’ll garner writeups from content-hungry bloggers of each of those 50 or so fanbases. (Guilty.) They’re a way for the organizations that hand out these awards to grab some publicity in the calm before the storm of the college football season. And these lists don’t even always include the eventual winner. Two Georgia linebackers were named to the 2017 Butkus Award watchlist. Roquan Smith wasn’t one of them.

BUT — and there’s always a ‘but’ — while these lists are essentially meaningless, it is nice to see Walker receiving some long overdue plaudits. The triumvirate of Smith, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy took up a lot of oxygen in conversations about Georgia’s outstanding LB corps last season despite Walker finishing second on the team in both sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (13.5). This season, he’ll be a key figure on the defense and could breakout beyond just UGA and SEC circles and receive more recognition on the national stage, raising his NFL Draft stock in the process.

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com believes Walker has what it takes to be one of the top linebackers in college football and named him No. 4 on his list of 13 linebackers to watch this season. (It should be noted the Zierlein is looking at Walker’s NFL potential more than his college football production.)

Walker will finally get his chance to be a starter as he enters his senior season, but he is definitely on the radar of NFL scouts. Walker carries 251 pounds with ease on his athletic frame and he possesses the athletic ability to drop into coverage or even bump to inside linebacker from time to time. Walker will be scouted as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he might have some hybrid potential as a 4-3 strong-side ‘backer. He needs to improve his play strength and add more sophistication to his pass rush, but his 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in limited playing time last season bode well for his expected production as a starter this year.

If Walker can increase his sack and TFL production commensurate with the increase in snaps he’s likely to receive this season, I don’t think there’s any doubt Walker will have a ton of suitors in the 2019 NFL Draft. But as far as his senior season goes and how he’s viewed as a college football player, Walker needs to improve in coverage and against the run. If he doesn’t do that, I’d actually rate Natrez Patrick and Monty Rice’s chances of winning the Butkus higher. It seems likely Walker will be a pass-rush specialist in the NFL, but he could end his senior season as one of the best linebackers in college football if he can round out his game.

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‘I think Pruitt just flat cussed out Coach Richt, and he didn’t do anything back’

In the wake of the Aaron Murray/Jeremy Pruitt kerfuffle during SEC Media Days last week, there’s been a lot of renewed interest among Georgia fans about what actually went down between Pruitt and Mark Richt during their time together in Athens. Dean Legge of Dawg Post is trying to give fans a sense of what happened at UGA in 2015 with a series of stories titled, fittingly enough, “What Happened at UGA in 2015.”

In his first post of the series, Legge looks at how Pruitt filled a leadership vacuum within the program created by the departure of Mike Bobo and increasingly complacent Richt and the rift that created between Pruitt loyalists and Richt loyalists. With quotes from anonymous players, Legge paints a picture of a team in complete disarray.

One flashpoint in this whole fiasco seemed to be during spring practice 2015 when Pruitt got into with Richt when the head coach refused to toss two players from practice for fighting. One anonymous player went as far to say he “lost some respect” for Richt because he wouldn’t put Pruitt in his place during the meltdown.

“The root of the problem was that Pruitt was running the show,” an anonymous player told Legge. “Coach Richt is a non-confrontational guy. He didn’t check Pruitt, and it went from there. I think Pruitt just flat cussed out Coach Richt, and he didn’t do anything back.”

Go read the whole thing if you haven’t already. It filled with interesting quotes and tidbits like that. Legge is writing about the disaster that was Brian Schottenheimer’s tenure as offensive coordinator in his next post. I’m very interested in what players have to say about that stretch now that they can speak with candor.

3-star Tennessee DT to visit Athens this weekend

5-star Thomaston, Ga. DT Travon Walker will announce his college choice this evening at 6:45 p.m. ET with Georgia among the favorites to secure his services. But Walker will not be the only defensive tackle prospect on the mind of Georgia coaches this week.

3-star DT Tymon Mitchell of Nashville, Tenn. is visiting Athens this weekend to take part in Georgia’s “reveal” event, in which it will unveil the new locker room and recruiting room added as part of the west end zone renovations, according to Jeff Sentell of DawgNation.

Defensive tackle is a priority position for Georgia this recruiting cycle as many of the teams DTs will leave the program in the next few years. That fact seems to be a selling point for Mitchell.

“I know if I go to Georgia that I am not playing right away for sure,” Mitchell said, according to Sentell. “But Georgia is losing eight defensive linemen over the next two years. I know that five of them will be defensive tackles. So I look at that.”

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