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Travon Walker knows Georgia needs a big year from him and he’s ready for it

Travon Walker is accustomed to high expectations. He arrived at Georgia as a 5-star signee in the 2019 signing class and the first defensive line 5-star prospect Kirby Smart landed in his time as Georgia’s head coach.

Walker told reporters on Tuesday he holds himself to a high standard so he’s never really been fazed by the expectations set by others.

Even if one of those people happens to be his own head coach.

“Travon is the guy that’s got to have a big year for us,” Smart told reporters earlier in March. “Not only is he replacing Malik [Herring] but in a lot of ways he’s replacing Azeez [Ojulari]. I think everybody just assumes with Azeez being gone that it’s Nolan [Smith]’s job. It’s not like that for us. Sixty to 70 percent of the snaps, Travon is Azeez and Nolan is Azeez.”

Traditionally, the defensive end spot in Georgia’s defense has not been a statistically productive spot. Herring played the position well, but in the last two seasons, he came up with just 9.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Georgia is going to need those numbers to be much higher in 2021, as it must replace outside linebackers Ojulari and Jermaine Johnson after he transferred to Florida State. Those two combined for 14.0 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss.

Walker though isn’t your traditional defensive end. Between his go-go gadget arms, chiseled frame and speed he has the potential to be a one of a kind player for the Bulldogs.

“It’s hard because his arms are just so long and he’s just explosive off the ball,” teammate Justin Shaffer said of trying to block Walker in practice.

Walker has turned heads a handful of times in his first two years on campus. At 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds he still has enough athleticism to play a role on Georgia’s kickoff team. He also came up with the game-ending sack against Auburn.

Related: ‘Extremely athletic’ Travon Walker churns freshman potential into performance

The aforementioned length and get off made him an integral part of Georgia’s passing rushing package as a freshman, something he figures to be apart of once again in 2021. With Ojualri in the NFL, Georgia may experiment by putting Walker on the outside as opposed to lining him up on the interior as it did in the past two seasons.

As a sophomore Walker began to see more reps on early downs. Heading into his pivotal junior season, he feels well-positioned to make the kind of impact Smart needs him to.

“I was putting my hand down and played run a lot and I think that is going to make my game come a little faster so I won’t be as hesitant as previous years,” Walker said.

Walker anticipated he’d have a bigger role on the Georgia defense this season, even beyond just replacing Herring. He’ll need to provide more of a pass rush — he had just 0.5 sack last season — if he’s also going to help replace Ojulari.

Related: Kirby Smart challenges former 5-star Georgia football defensive players

“Personally, trying to better my hands and my conditioning level, because I know that I am going to have to play a lot more snaps,” Walker said. “My hands and eyes, I am trying to train them to be good, because that was one of my main goals that I was working to perfect.”

Georgia needs greater statical production out of Walker, certainly more so than it got from a very consistent Herring. Expectations have never been higher for Walker, which is saying something given he’s been one of the most well-known players on the team.

Smart labeled Walker as one of the top 20 players on the 2019 team when he was just a freshman. If Walker is to have the season Smart wants and Georgia likely needs he’s going to have to be closer to a top 5 player on this 2021 team.

Walker knows and accepts all of this. He’s got a tremendous opportunity and he’s ready for it.

Travon Walker ready for big junior season

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