April 7, 2008

Walker trying to knock off the rust

If you asked the people who regularly attend Texas Tech football practice who the biggest surprise of the spring has been, the landslide winner would almost certainly be junior wideout Todd Walker. From the very first practice to the most recent, Walker has looked like the fastest receiver on the field, and has also been one of the most reliable. Walker's touchdown-to-drop ratio has been astronomical. Indeed, I haven't seen him drop a pass yet. He has also run crisp, clean routes and managed to get open with regularity.

Based on Walker's past history, the above combination comes as a bit of a shock. He arrived from Pflugerville as a highly-touted recruit who would be making a transition from quarterback to wide receiver. However, Walker's first two seasons were not terribly productive, and after suffering an injury during the off season, was redshirted last year. The year off seems to have done him a power of good. Nonetheless, he remains somewhat nonplussed with his performance so far.

"It's alright," Walker responds when asked about his spring workouts.

"I'm trying to get back all the rust, get it off and get back in the swing of things. I feel I'm making some plays with the reps I've got and hopefully Coach, he sees that."

Chances are very good the coaching staff will note Walker's play and the transformation that has occurred since he was last on the field. And according to Walker, valuing his time on the gridiron and taking nothing for granted are largely responsible for his improved play.

"The whole year out is like seeing all my teammates get to play. Going from starting games and making catches like in the Insight Bowl to not getting to play and seeing my brother [Grant play]. I got to see it from the outside and realized how much fun it is to play football here at Texas Tech, and pretty much came with a different attitude than when I was younger. Right now, my attitude is just go out there and have some fun and don't take it so serious with myself when I make a mistake."

So far, the mistakes have been few and far between.

Walker's play, combined with Tech's wealth of talent, young and experienced, in the receiving corps, raises the question of exactly where Walker will fit in. He is currently a backup to Mike Crabtree, which would seem to bode ill for any playing time, but the situation may not be as dim for Walker as it seems.

"I want to start somewhere," Walker exclaims with some vehemence.

"That's my plan. I didn't come here to be a backup or anything and I told Coach Leach that, and he said if I can perform throughout the spring and in camp, and get to where I'm one of the top four guys making plays out there, he'll put me somewhere. So I'm listening to him and hopefully I'll be in that top four."

Being in the top four is not only one of Todd Walker's aspirations, it may also be a team goal. Walker has been in the Tech football camp for some time, and he really likes what he sees in the current squad.

"It [this team] is a lot different [from previous teams]. It seems like it's clicking a lot more. The offensive line is tremendous! I mean, we're not making as many mistakes. We're dropping balls here and there, but it's not like it used to be, you know. We've got guys picking each other up and then they make a touchdown the next play. So it's kind of like more chemistry almost, and you can tell things are a lot smoother."

The chemistry Walker mentions may be the most crucial variable in Tech's drive to win the Big 12 championship. It will take a tremendous amount of cohesion and tough-mindedness to fight the overconfidence and complacency that have plagued the Red Raiders-disastrously-in the past.

"That's definitely a big question because in the past years with games like Colorado and Oklahoma State, we went in there with too much confidence, and anybody can beat you on any given Saturday," Walker acknowledges.

"So it's pretty much a matter of our team leaders this year coming in and making sure that ourselves and the young guys realize that everybody in the Big 12 or outside of the Big 12 can beat us. And I think that'll be one of our biggest obstacles is to go into each game knowing, hey, there's a chance we could lose this game…let's go out and play our hardest."

It the Red Raiders hope to achieve that mental transformation, they would do well to model it on Todd Walker's.

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