After Joe Walker slashed through the line to dump a Stanford Cardinal running back to the turf, the fan behind me leaned over and said, “God, I love that kid.” Yeah, a lot of other Oregon fans agree; this year, Walker has emerged as Oregon’s go-to linebacker when the Ducks face the run. Against rush-happy Stanford, he had nine tackles with one for a loss. The Duck defense held Stanford to a very respectable 3.4 yards per rush.
Walker, now a junior, came to Oregon after spending a year at Los Angeles Harbor Community College. At the time, he was rated the highest JuCo interior linebacker in the nation. Walker improved steadily throughout last season and even started the Alamo Bowl tilt with Texas, but his breakout game came this year against Michigan State when he recorded nine tackles, two of them for a loss. He chopped off his fly-away hairdo, but his commitment and hard work haven’t faltered. Walker ranks second this year on the Duck squad with 59 total tackles.
Although Walker has been tabbed as a run-stopping linebacker, by the end of his career don’t be surprised if he becomes an all-around backer capable of filling the gaps and covering running backs on passing downs. Linebackers develop slowly and often shine their senior year, as evidenced by Oregon linebackers Dwight Stuckey and Kiko Alonso. If that pattern continues, Walker will become a defensive star in the Pac-12 in 2015, but — truth be told — he already terrifies opponents and I, too, love that kid.
Top Photo by Oregon Daily Emerald