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November 6, 2021 Athens - Georgia's defensive lineman Travon Walker (44) celebrates after he sacked Missouri's quarterback Tyler Macon in the second half during a NCAA football game at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Saturday, November 6, 2021. Georgia won 43-6 over Missouri. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Kirby Smart warns against Travon Walker comparisons for touted freshman Mykel Williams

ATHENS — One can understand why freshman defensive end Mykel Williams would be compared to Travon Walker. The two were both 5-star prospects from the state of Georgia. Williams was actually ranked higher than that of Walker in their respective recruiting classes, as Williams was the No. 4 overall player in the 2022 cycle and Walker came in at No. 22 in the 2019 cycle.

They both lined up at defensive end, a spot that traditionally hasn’t been productive at Georgia. Willilams was spotted working with the Georgia defensive linemen during Tuesday’s practice. Walker started at the position last season, notching 6.0 sacks for the Bulldogs.

So between the impressive physiques and high expectations — along with both coming from the state of Georgia — it’s easy to expect Williams to follow a similar trajectory of Walker. The latter contributed key snaps as a freshman, using his unreal athleticism to wow on special teams and come up with some timely stops late in the season.

Kirby Smart though wants any and all comparisons between the two to stop. It would downplay how special Walker is while also putting unfair standards on Williams.

“We’re not going to replace Travon Walker; we don’t have another Travon Walker,” Smart said. “Those guys are once-in-a-lifetime players when they’re that size and that speed. So, we’re going to coach the guys we have and we’re going to teach them to play really hard and really physical.

“Not have the expectation to be compared to someone else, because I don’t like those comparisons.”

Related: 5-star Georgia DL signee Mykel Williams wins Maxwell National Player of the Year honor

To Smart’s point, Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network recently pegged Walker to be the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft. A lot would have to go right for Williams to go that high in the 2025 NFL Draft.

When Walker arrived at Georgia in 2019, there was no one to compare him to. He was the first 5-star defensive linemen to sign with Georgia under Smart. He also didn’t enroll at Georgia in the spring, dulling some of the hype and excitement that followed him.

Williams enters Georgia as the Bulldogs are coming off a championship season. Georgia now has multiple 5-star defensive linemen, such as Jalen Carter. And the Bulldogs have to replace what will be a historic defensive line haul, as Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt are also expected to be drafted in the first round.

Yet there doesn’t seem to be the same desire to compare Carter to Wyatt or even fellow freshman Bear Alexander to Davis. And Alexander is wearing the same No. 99 jersey Davis wore. Williams is donning the No. 13 jersey.

Related: ESPN eager to see early impact made by Georgia football freshmen Mykel Williams, Marvin Jones Jr.

This spring, Smart’s main concern when it comes to Williams is just getting him up to speed on the complexities of the Georgia defense, which is pretty standard for every freshman.

“I’m just trying to get Mykel to know what a six technique is and a nine technique is, just like I did with Travon when he first got here,” Smart said. “So, he doesn’t have to be Travon Walker. That is not what he has to do.”

One other key difference between the two is that Walker was a chiseled 275 in his final year at Georgia. Williams is listed at 260 pounds and there is a noticeable difference in comparing the two physically. Williams will have plenty of time to fill out his 6-foot-5 frame as he works with the Georgia strength and conditioning program.

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