AUBURN, Ala. — Travon Walker came to Georgia to do the type of things he did on Saturday against Auburn.
It was not to try to give his coach an ACL tear. It was to be a drive killer. A lights-out closer from the defensive line spot, if you will.
To slam doors shut.
The potential was there for Walker to slam them the way he did basketballs as an all-state level power forward and post player at Upson-Lee High School for a back-to-back state championship team.
Or continually dig deep for his best like the way he used to throw the shot put at a state championship level in track.
When an athlete can do those things and still list those as his best sports, then a contending national championship program is on to something. (The 6-foot-5, 290-pound freshman also played some “Wildcat” quarterback his senior year of high school, too.)
Auburn has two highly impressive future longtime NFL senior starters across its front in Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson. That said, the opinion here is Walker is on that same road.
Walker was one of the five prospects with that elite 5-star rating that signed with Georgia in its 2019 class. When he did, the upside was so vast Walker was this correspondent’s pick (the well-respected 247Sports scouting expert Barton Simmons also said the same) to have the most likely tools to wind up a top 5 or even a No. 1 overall NFL draft pick one day.
He’s not the prototype for the position he already plays in the rugged SEC. If he keeps working and progressing like his humble roots (son of a Marine) has wired him to do, he’ll wind up north of that “prototype” label.
The head-shaking part is he still has at least two more seasons in Athens to go.
“He’s special, man,” junior All-SEC safety candidate Richard LeCounte III said. “We’ll be able to see it. I can’t wait to see how he does things in these years coming up.”
Travon Walker: That big play he made against Auburn
First and foremost, let’s rewind that play Walker made that broke Auburn’s back on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium that all of DawgNation is talking about.
Travon Walker (@D1Figure_) with the SAAAAAACCCCCKKKKKK!!!!!!
— Hiro Katsuki (@KatsukiFB) November 17, 2019
It could be stretched technically into calling that rush here a stunt. But it is better known as a loop. Perhaps a loop that only an athlete like Walker at DT can consistently pull off.
It was once more common to see ILBs try this, but Walker has shown he can do it. DawgNation’s Connor Riley pointed out that both of Walker’s sacks have come this year on a loop like that one against Auburn.
It is an NFL technique that teams like the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL employ when they still want to press the pocket and flush the passer while still just bringing a four-man rush.
Bo Nix was getting rid of the ball fast all night against Georgia in Jordan-Hare Stadium. He had been rated as the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat QB prospect a year ago, too.
The defensive coordinator can dial up a call like Dan Lanning to get Walker in place to slam the door against Auburn and Nix. But it still takes a special athlete to line him up and take a good athlete at QB down like Walker did last night.
“That guy [Travon Walker] is a beast, man,” LeCounte III said. “To be able to let him rush and we hold it up on the back end that felt good. Travon is a great player.”
Travon Walker: What Kirby Smart had to say about No. 44
Brown was the 5-star in-state defensive tackle that Kirby Smart and his just-hired staff at Georgia missed out on in the class of 2016.
Travon Walker was the 5-star in-state DT that Smart and line coach Trey Scott did not miss on. That key stop wasn’t the first play he’s made this year either. He now has 10 tackles, 2.5 tackles for losses and 1.5 sacks in 2019.
When a 290-pound freshman can do all those things and flash enough athleticism to be on the kickoff return team, well…..that’s really something.
It says a lot about Walker.
“It says what I keep saying to our guys,” Smart said. “We’ve got to find more ways to play the guy.”
But that wasn’t it. Smart found a way to do more with his assessment of Walker as a true freshman.
“I mean he is probably one of our better overall football players and he’s playing on third down,” Smart said. “He plays quite a bit but we have got to find [more] ways to use the kid. He’s talented and we’ve got to do a better job as coaches to find more ways and more avenues for him to help us because he’s extremely athletic.”
And then there’s the end. Walker toppled Nix. Then he dropped his coach onto the turf at Jordan-Hare, too.
— Alison Mastrangelo (@AlisonWSB) November 17, 2019
First, the game sealing sack by Travon Walker and the chest bump with Kirby Smart that followed: pic.twitter.com/7Avm9774vQ
— Jed May (@JedMay_) November 17, 2019
The Georgia coach was asked if he regretted that decision afterward.
“Hell no,” he said. “I’d chest bump Travon all day. I thought I might lose an ACL, but I was committed to it.”
Sounds like Smart will take one of those every week in those circumstances