In football, especially in the SEC, everything begins and ends in the trenches. Luckily, the Kentucky Wildcats have one of the best defensive front sevens in the country.
Arguably the most important player on the defensive line is the anchor—Deone Walker—who will once again look to wreak havoc in the backfield all season long.
- Position: Defensive Tackle
- Class: Sophomore
- Measurements: 6-6, 348 lbs.
- Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
- School: Cass Tech
- High School Recruit Rankings: No. 216 nationally, No. 28 DL via 247 Sports Rankings
The former offensive tackle prospect was a consensus four-star recruit out of high school. He chose the Kentucky Wildcats over offers from the Alabama Crimson Tide, Georgia Bulldogs, LSU Tigers, Michigan Wolverines, and just about every other college football program in America.
His recruitment didn't lack for drama as it was unclear if he’d choose the Cats or the Wolverines, but in the end, Walker spurned his hometown school and headed to Lexington.
The dual-sport athlete (he played center on the basketball team) was a three-year starter and letter-winner at Cass Tech in Detroit. He also played offensive tackle as a senior and he was ranked highly as a recruit for both offensive and defensive line.
After totaling 43 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and six sacks in just seven games during his senior season, he was named to the Detroit Free Press All-State Dream Team and was First-Team All-State.
While he didn't start from the jump, Walker made his impact felt very quickly. He had a monster performance and hellacious hit against the Florida Gators, which earned him a starting spot in the following game, just the third game into his young career.
I just discovered Deone Walker from Kentucky. #0 at nose tackle.— Marcus Whitman (@TFG_Football) January 19, 2023
This kid is a 6'6 330 LB true Freshman and ate a potential First Round pick (O'Cyrus Torrence) for breakfast in this game. How do you even get to 6'6 330 at 19 years old? pic.twitter.com/jyo3SlI0Dw
Walker played in all 13 games, earning a starting spot in the final 11 games. On the year, he totaled 40 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble.
His play earned him the first of several honors in his young career. He was named a True Freshman All-American (On3.com), College All-True Freshman Team (PFF), First-team Freshman All-American (CFN), HM All-American (Phil Steele), All-SEC Freshman Team (Coaches), All-SEC Second Team (PFF), and All-SEC Second Team (Phil Steele). He was also a Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award Semifinalist, as well as a Midseason True Freshman All-American (The Athletic, 247 Sports, On3.com) and SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week (11/28).
Deone Walker among True Freshman DI (min. 300 snaps)— Clay Fink (@clay_fink) January 25, 2023
74.2 Defensive Grade (2nd)
67.8 Run Defense Grade (3rd)
80.9 Pass Rush Grade (1st)
24 Pressures (1st)
3 Sacks (T-1st)
2 Batted Passes (T-1st)
38 Tackles (1st)
21 Stops (1st)
2 Forced Fumbles (1st)
13.2 Pass Rush Win% (2nd) pic.twitter.com/Mr7l6j5mKE
Heading into his sophomore campaign, the hype is real. Walker’s already been named Preseason All-SEC Second Team by Athlon Sports and is one of PFF’s highest graded returning defensive tackles in the SEC.
Highest graded returning SEC Defensive Tackles pic.twitter.com/SDd9xRgqGm— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 15, 2023
Walker was arguably one of the best freshmen in the entire country last season. Now, he looks to build on his impressive freshman season as he’ll anchor the defense heading into his sophomore year.
The numbers might not get much better, as we can expect double team after double team this season, but I have no doubt that Walker will make his presence felt. I have a feeling we’ve only got two seasons left before the next Jordan Davis is headed to the NFL Draft, so enjoy this monster while you can, BBN.