ATHENS – Newcomers making their way onto the field are nothing new for Georgia. Malaki Starks has started for the Bulldogs since the second game of the season, while Brock Bowers led the team in reception last year.
But few freshmen are doing what linebacker Jalon Walker has done in recent weeks. He spent most of the summer playing at the Georgia center back position, playing behind the likes of Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Smael Mondon.
Following outside linebacker Nolan Smith’s injury late in the season, Walker has seen a surge in snaps as an edge rusher, or outside linebacker, for the Bulldogs. He found himself on the field for Georgia’s opening drive of the game and played in Georgia’s third pressure pack.
“His versatility really helps him play between the two positions,” Mondon said. “He’s fast and can move like an off-ball linebacker, but he’s also a big guy. He’s strong so he can edge and put a good edge.”
Walker played 13 snaps against Kentucky, more than fellow inside linebackers Trezmen Marshall and Rian Davis. Georgia only played Chaz Chambliss and Robert Beal at full-backs against Kentucky.
The North Carolina freshman scored a tackle for loss against the Wildcats. As the Bulldogs move deeper into the season, there is hope that Walker will be able to join forces with colleague Mykel Williams for a bigger impact as part of Georgia’s third pressure package.
“Jalon has been developing and getting better and still has a long way to go and he’s going to believe whoever tells you first that he needs to grow and get better,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of Walker before the game against Kentucky. “He has to keep growing. He has not yet taken what he does in practice to the field. He practices better than he plays sometimes and he has to overcome some of that fear and that’s part of being a rookie.
Williams has 2.0 sacks in the season and would have had another against Kentucky had it not been wiped away on a penalty.
Walker has worked hard as a member of Georgia’s scout team, teammate Broderick Jones noted. Jones has seen many walkers as left starting tackle for the Bulldogs in practice.
Jones offered a comparison for the freshman linebacker that provides insight into Walker’s advantages and versatility.
“Jalon Walker, man, he reminds me of Adam Anderson when it comes to leaving the ball,” Jones said. “He’s probably not that big, but he packs a punch. You better be prepared if you face him.”
Georgia has only 18.0 sacks this season, but the Bulldogs have done an excellent job of creating pressure. With Smith and Beal both moving to the NFL after this season, the Bulldogs will have a hole in the outside linebacker position.
Walker has the ability to fill that gap, starting now. While the Bulldogs are also hoping to squeeze more performance out of Chambliss and Marvin Jones Jr. at the edge position, Walker has proven someone who gets better and better the more he sees the field.
With Georgia being a huge favorite over Georgia Tech this weekend, Walker has a chance to see plenty of snaps for the Bulldogs and get the replays needed to make a bigger impact for the Bulldogs as they focus on the Prepare for SEC championship game and beyond.
Broderick has great praise for Jalon Walker
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