Why March 28?
“Going into the last stage of my recruitment my parents had a talk with me that everybody is waiting for me to make the best move,” the 4.0 student said. “For me having these certain schools picked out and seeing which schools best fit me. Which has the whole program here best fits me? Which programs have taken the time and have been well-thought-out? I’m ready for this moment to just settle down and devote my loyalty to this team.”
There was no reason for March 28. No family member or special connection. His Salisbury (Salisbury, NC) team will play a rival on the Friday of his decision weekend. His father’s Catawba College squad will play the next day with their adjusted spring season.
“We have back-to-back football and then having a happily ever after on Sunday then to celebrate my commitment,” Walker said.
The six-week NCAA extension of the dead period essentially goosed this move.
“The NCAA had me really fired up to go see these places in April,” he said. “It did really bust my bubble to see when the deadline got pushed all the way back to May. With me waiting until the summertime, I know lots of people aren’t going to wait on certain people during the time. I’m just going to hop on the ball and go with what I know. As many Zoom calls as I have done and as many self-guided tours [I’m] just going off that information and getting to know these schools relationship-wise. That is what I’m doing here.”
He has six finalists in Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio State.
“Right now I say it is a three going into my recruitment,” he said. “Basing my information down as best as I can. Going through those Zoom calls. Having multiple Zoom calls. Getting the best information I can out of those. Just doing that as well and of course, having that self-guided tour to get the full feeling for myself.”
The 6-foot-2.5, 220-pound junior said he has yet to make up his mind.
“It is still in between three schools,” he said. “Right now at this time, I don’t have a clear decision.”
Walker has charted within the top five of the DawgNation “Before the Hedges” top targets list since we started charting the 2022s. The thinking here is he is an exceptional talent on and off the field. He rates on the 247Sports Composite scale as the nation’s No. 4 OLB and the No. 50 overall recruit.
The school that signs Walker will be blessed with more than that. He’s a dunk contest champion, a supremely agile athlete and a lightning rod for championship culture in any locker room.
“All these programs are very great,” he said. “I appreciate all the love from these programs. I feel like me making this choice I will have to break up with a couple of girlfriends at this point. Having that great relationship with them but having to let them go to make the best decision for me and my family.”
That’s a very mature outlook for a student-athlete who just turned 17 this week.
Let’s take a lap around all those valued options for Jalon Walker. The honors off the tee here go to the defending national champions. We will proceed through the rest via alphabetical order.
Jalon Walker has set up his commitment date. What’s next with his process? (Jalon Walker/Twitter)
Walker broke down the lure of the Crimson Tide in his final decision.
“Alabama is on the hot spot there,” he said. “Everyone enjoys Alabama. How they see Alabama as the spot to go play at and to be great. The best go play with the best. That’s the message I get from them. Coach [Pete] Golding and coach [Nick] Saban do a great job of reaching out and getting to know me as much as I’m getting to know them. Showing their love as much as I appreciate it going into this process and always reminding me that it is always a great opportunity to go play at the University of Alabama.”
He will never forget the honor of being recruiting by Saban.
“Me just getting to know him,” Walker said. “Just me going through this process being star-struck to some of these coaches that I never thought I’d be able to speak to. These coaches I see on ‘ESPN’ and ‘Gameday’ doing these interviews and just me being able to actually meet them.”
Walker had a great connection with Auburn prior to the pandemic with Gus Malzahn and his staff. There was a head coaching change and decided turnover among those previous ties.
It appears those bridges have been repaved with Bryan Harsin taking the #WDE reins. What excites him the most about a chance to play for Auburn?
“Me getting to know the staff now and having a great connection with them makes everything right,” Walker said. “I know they want to start their program out strong and they have a couple of [big] guys coming in this year.”
These Tigers were one of the three programs that Walker was not able to take a self-guided visit to during the pandemic. He has a connection to former 5-star recruit KJ Henry on that roster.
Henry’s father once served as the defensive coordinator for one of his father’s college teams at Catawba College.
He broke why the six-time defending ACC champions are one of his final six here.
“The Clemson program is just a great program,” he said. “I’ve gotten to know them I think going on four to five years now of me attending their camp when I was younger. Going in there and meeting those players there and seeing the whole atmosphere for myself at a young age helped me to realize that football is not that bad. I don’t mind considering this school to play at.”
“Having the great program coach [Dabo] Swinney is running at the best of their ability. Having everybody in their program to be great. Especially coach [Brent] Venables coaching the good defense he coaches.”
Georgia did get a self-guided visit last fall. Walker and his family visited during the weekend of what was supposed to be a Vanderbilt home game.
When what was the biggest thing which might eventually draw him to the Bulldogs was up next, he let out an “oh yeah” while that question was in mid-stream.
“It is always great to have a defensive-minded head coach,” he said. “Coach [Kirby] Smart does a great job of reaching out. Always welcoming me and always giving me the great spirits of Georgia. With them having a strong defensive staff with coach [Dan] Lanning, coach [Will] Muschamp, coach [Glenn] Schumann all great coaches in their own aspects of their own positions. Having that strong defensive base type of school can bring out great DBs, bring out great safeties and especially great linebackers. They get there going in as a linebacker and always become a better linebacker once you leave.”
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The home state school was one of the three programs that Walker was able to take a self-guided visit to during the pandemic. He even saw a game in Chapel Hill last season.
Why would he stay choose the Tar Heels?
“Coach [Mack] Brown has done a great job with his coaching staff,” Walker said. “Getting the best players in the state to stay in the state. He pushes that message across and he wants the best players in the state to represent their state to the best of their ability. How they have treated me during this recruiting process and have gotten to know my family as much as I have been getting to know all of theirs.”
“It is just a great loving program.”
The recruiting relationship with the head coach was the first thing he mentioned brought up with the Buckeyes. Ryan Day had the standout impression here.
“Coach Day does a great job leading the program,” he said. “It is him being a newer head coach to Ohio State and him having two positive seasons back-to-back going in keeping his program strong. With recruits coming in. With their team they have now and [linebackers] coach [Al] Washington does a great job as well recruiting me to the best of his ability. I appreciate all his recruiting he’s done every since early summer last year so that connection has been growing throughout the months and leading up to years.”
Jalon Walker was floored recently by the outpouring of good vibes he got from his top schools on his birthday. (Jalon Walker/Instagram)
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Jalon Walker: The days and weeks ahead
There wasn’t any applied pressure to make his commitment in March. They were all in it for a talent like Walker for the long haul. Other recruits might be feeling it, but not Walker.
“They were all taking their time while I was taking my time to evaluate all of them as much as they were evaluating me,” Walker said.
He had some nerves in sharing that commitment date with the world.
“I was at first but after that, I was fired up about it,” he said. “I had the joyous moment of I am really doing this. Just taking a really big step in my life with the next chapter.”
The thinking here is he has three winners to sort from.
“I see every team has an aspect they need me in,” Walker said. “I take pride in being able to help them to the best of my abilities with what I have to do both on and off the field. I think these three teams are all great programs but whoever I go to has the best prize they can get from me just knowing how I will use my work ethic and always being humble and always working.”
He’s been going through this process since the end of his freshman year. That’s when he started picking up offers. It is hard for him to figure out which school wants him the most at this time. The recent edits he got from these six schools and love around his recent birthday showed him that.
This is likely a 60/40 split here weighing academics over athletics. He said it is very hard to peg his best academic fit here. Much less the best blend of football, development and a 40-year plan to straighten teeth like a 5-star, too.
“Some folks might see some of these schools as party or football schools or whatnot,” Walker said. “But they don’t know the real details about what academic natures they hold. Or what the degree holds for you with their name. Or what they can do to set you up after football.”
He’s not sure if he will take any more self-guided visits.
“I do know we will have one or two more Zoom calls with these schools going into the future,” he said.
Jared Wilson, a 2021 Georgia signee from North Carolina, reached out after he released his decision.
“He said I always needed to know that I welcomed by the ‘Dawgs,” Walker said. “That’s an offensive lineman out of West Forsyth High School in North Carolina. Coach Schumann always tells me the quarterback of the defense is the linebacker. With me going into my recruiting process, Gunner Stockton always reached out a lot. He and I can really make the program great about being a ‘Dawg.”
The position fit varies across all of these schools. They all see him as a versatile player. They don’t all see him as an ILB. He has loads of athleticism to play inside and outside the box in certain situations.
Clemson views him as an Isaiah Simmons in their scheme. He values that hybrid linebacker role with the Tigers
“Right now there is not a generalized position that I will be playing if I commit to the University of Georgia,” Walker added.
He also valued that, too. Walker said Georgia views him as a Nakobe Dean and a Roquan Smith-type athlete.
“Just always staying on the field as much as they can,” Walker said. “They would put them in all the time as athletic as those guys are.”
Check out his early junior season below. That’s a spring season in North Carolina with the pandemic.
(the recent reads on DawgNation.com)