Travon Walker: 'I want to go be great”
Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker (44) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Thursday, March 18, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Georgia defensive end Travon Walker knows that the bar is set high for him in 2021.
Throughout the past two seasons, the Thomaston, Ga. native has played appeared in 21 games. So far, he’s racked up 28 total stops, 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
Walker accomplished those numbers while being used as a situational player over the last two years, although for this upcoming season, head coach Kirby Smart expects the rising junior to have a monstrous 2021 campaign.
“I want to go be great,” he said on Tuesday after practice.
Walker added that this spring feels different because he’s now the No. 1 guy at defensive end.
"For me, personally, I always set big goals for myself," he said. "So that's just something I want to do for myself, not for anybody else. I want to do it for myself before it comes to anybody else"
Setting those goals for himself is important, mainly because Walker is now the top guy on the depth chart. For the past four years, Malik Herring has been a big contributor for the Bulldogs on the defensive line. At the same time, Herring would push Walker to worker harder and was a mentor for him. Now, without his former teammate by his side, Walker is now transitioning into more a leadership role.
“I’ve known Malik for a while,” Walker said. “He was a good teammate and would push me in practice. It’s going to be tough without him, but I feel like I can fill those shoes.”
Walker will also be taking on more responsibility because outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari is moving onto the NFL. Sometimes over the past couple of seasons, Walker would line up off the line and in the defensive backfield to rush the passer. As a player with many skills, there could be more blitz packages in 2021 with Walker off the line of scrimmage.
“We had productive rushers, but a lot of that's what Dan (Lanning) called and trying to scheme to get guys one-on-one,” Smart said. “Travon, I think he is going to have a big year for us. Not only is he replacing Malik, but in a lot of ways, he's replacing Azeez. I think everyone assumes with Azeez being gone that it's now Nolan's job, but it's not like that for us. 60 to 70 percent of the snaps, Travon is Azeez. The rest, Nolan is Azeez. One is left and one is right. Both of those guys play defensive end a lot.”
Walker said that the different packages he’s played in over the last two years has helped his game a lot.
“It helps that last year I got more second down and first down reps,” he said. “I wasn’t just playing third down and dime packages. I was able to put my hand down and play the run a lot, so I think that’s going to make my game come a little faster, and I won’t be as hesitant.”
With that much responsibility, no wonder the expectations are high for the former five-star prospect.
Senior offensive lineman Justin Shaffer said he can see why his teammate is getting all the hype.
“I get to go against Travon really every day,” Shaffer said. “It’s a definite battle…It’s hard because his arms are so long and he’s so explosive off the ball.”
Here is the video from Walker’s interview: