ATHENS – D’Andre Walker doesn’t play very much. When he does, things happen. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not.
Walker is the epitome of a high-energy guy. A teammate called him – affectionately – a member of the “nut squad.” And one look at the sophomore outside linebacker shows his potential: 6-foot-3, 224 pounds, lean and fast.
Despite limited playing time, Walker has 19.5 tackles this year, and has been credited with seven quarterback pressures. That’s tied for third on the team, behind only Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy.
“When I get in, I’m fired just up to be out there,” Walker said.
But sometimes too fired up.
So far this season, Walker has been penalized twice for unsportsmanlike conduct: After Georgia’s defense made an interception at Missouri, and during a punt return at South Carolina. (A punt return that was fair caught.)
Walker was also called for roughing-the-passer at South Carolina, moving the ball to the 1. The Gamecocks scored on the next play to draw within 21-14.
And in another sign of being a bit over-eager, Walker has been called for offsies on kickoffs not once this season, but twice.
It caught the notice of head coach Kirby Smart, who had what Walker called “a little sit-down conversation” with him.
“Just working on being more disciplined, I guess you would say,” Walker said. “And at the same time, my focus is not really about more playing time, it’s just bringing energy any chance I get.”
Sometimes you go too far when you’re trying to make something happen. But Walker said it’s not that.
“I’d just say not paying attention,” Walker said. “One was a punt, and I didn’t know he was downfield. And I just hit him. It was a mistake.”
But Smart, when asked about Walker this week, didn’t sound too obsessed about Walker’s penalties. He called Walker a “twitchy” player – as in quick – who hasn’t played as much on defense in the middle part of the year because they’ve played more physical running teams.
“Yeah we did (meet about the penalties), but that didn’t have any effect on his playing. It’s more about the kind of teams we’ve played,” Smart said. “If he can help the team and benefit the team then he’s going to be out there. He’s a fast guy that makes a lot of space plays.”
So Walker’s defensive playing time may change based on the opponent. He’s become a mainstay on special teams, though, establishing himself last year when he blocked a punt. That kind of energy works well on special teams, when you contain it.
“He’s got that special teams nut squad to him,” said senior Ryne Rankin, a special teams standout. “You’ve gotta be one or have a bunch of them.”
Depending on how things play out, Walker could be in line for more outside linebacker snaps in the next couple years. If he can fill out his frame, he has the speed and ability to stand out there.
In the meantime, he waits.
“I just have to play my role right now,” Walker said. “And that’s really bringing energy at any point, any chance I get.”