Coach Mike Cavanaugh reached into Nebraska’s backyard to completehis 2017 offensive line class, as offensive tackle Chris Walker verbally committed to Nebraska. Walker, a Lincoln native, received his Nebraska offer on Jan. 6 after a stellar showing during Lincoln East’s 2016 season. Walker earned first team all-state honors and helped lead the Spartans to a 7-5 record and the Class A Quarterfinals. Walker is considered a 2-star with a 76.8 rating according to Hail Varsity’s ranking composite.
Who Else Was Interested
Walker finished his recruitment with five offers, including tenders from Ohio and Wyoming. Walker’s name first began gaining steam over the summer, as the Lincoln East product put on an impressive performance at Nebraska’s summer camp in June. Despite impressing the Husker staff, Walker was unable to gain an offer, as the Huskers were busy chasing after Foster Sarell and Chuck Filiaga. Craig Bohl did extend an offer to Walker and the talented offensive tackle committed to Wyoming in November following an official visit to Laramie.
Nebraska re-entered the picture for Walker after offering him on Jan. 6 and Walker proceeded to schedule an official visit to Nebraska for the Jan. 13 weekend. Despite a valiant effort from Bohl to keep Walker in tow, the hometown product ultimately chose to commit to his dream school.
Walker measures in at 6-6 and 270 pounds. Walker has a tantalizing frame for an offensive tackle, as he is still extremely lanky at this point for a 270-pound lineman. Walker possesses long arms that will be of great help to him once he finishes maturing. Walker will definitely need a redshirt season when he gets on campus, as he is still skinny in his lower body and needs to add muscle and strength. When Walker is finished filling out, I would expect him to measure in at 6-6 and in the 310-315 pound range.
His on-field mentality: Walker plays with a nasty demeanor from his offensive line position and he looks to drive his opponents into the dirt on each play. Walker also demonstrated the ability to raise his game when facing tougher opponents, as he put in a tremendous performance against Kearney’s Rudy Stofer. While his team lost, Walker clearly won the individual battle between the two offensive line prospects. Great offensive linemen need to play with that nasty edge and Walker certainly brings that to the table.
His athleticism: Walker played right tackle at Lincoln East and the Spartan’s scheme often asked him to pull and serve as a lead blocker in their run game. Walker was very effective in this role, demonstrating surprising athleticism along the way. Walker is comfortable at the second level as a blocker, as he doesn’t lunge at opposing linebackers and get himself out of position. Instead, he is patient and gets himself into a position where they have to come to him. Once he does get his hands on opponents, he puts them on roller skates and drives them into the turf. Walker’s athleticism makes him a very good fit for Nebraska’s zone blocking scheme.
His potential: Walker is bit of a project at this point, but he has the type of potential rarely seen among Nebraska’s in-state recruits. Walker has the ideal frame for a right tackle and he plays angry, two of the main things you need in an offensive tackle. Walker has some rough points in his game that he will need to smooth out, but if Cavanaugh he is patient with him, he should be rewarded with a solid contributor in a couple seasons.
His pad level: Walker plays to high at this point in his development, something he will need to fix if he wants to see the field for Nebraska. Walker has a bad habit of rising up at the snap and continuing to play high throughout the whistle. This forces him to play from a less athletic and less powerful position, as defensive linemen are able to get underneath of his block and out leverage him. Walker has gotten away with this flaw in his game so far due to his size and strength, but college will be a different story. Cavanaugh will need to get Walker into the chute once he arrives on campus so Walker can work on starting low and staying low through the course of a play.
His pass blocking: Lincoln East doesn’t do a lot of passing, so Walker isn’t asked to pass block very much. Because of this, Walker is very raw in his pass set at this point, as he tends to stop his feet and lunge at opposing pass rushers instead of staying balanced with his feet. This forces Walker to play from a less stable position, making him a much easier object to get around for opposing defensive linemen. Walker will need to work on improving his kick step when he gets to Lincoln so that he can get himself set and ready for oncoming defenders instead of having to lunge at them to keep up. Walker also needs to keep his feet lighter and re-set himself in the passing game instead of going for one big shot.
Filling out his frame: Walker is a skinny offensive linemen right now, and he will need to add weight and strength if he wants to see the field for Nebraska. I’d like to see Walker add at least 20 pounds of good weight to his frame before he plays a snap at Nebraska, meaning that he will need to dedicate himself to the weight room and the training table during his redshirt year. Walker has the frame to add this weight with no problem, but he needs to make sure he is adding muscle and not just fat.
Walker is in a bit of a tough spot, as many fans will unfairly compare him to the offensive tackles Cavanaugh missed out on before offering Walker in January. While Walker isn’t quite as good as Sarell, he is no slouch and he combines fantastic frame with a nasty demeanor to be a formidable right tackle prospect. Walker will need time, but he has the potential to be a stellar right tackle prospect if Cavanaugh sticks with him.
I’d expect Walker to redshirt in 2017 and begin contending for the starting right tackle spot in 2018 against Matt Farniok and Cole Conrad. On a related note, kudos to Nebraska on taking care of its backyard. Following the Nebraska high school season, I felt that there were four players that were capable of coming into Nebraska and making the squad. Nebraska landed all four of them, signaling that it learned from the 2016 cycle.
College Comparison: Bigger version of Iowa right tackle Cole Croston
Pro Comparison: Bigger version of Packers guard/tackle Don Barclay