NCF Nation: Chris Walker

SEC update from Shrine Game

January, 24, 2011
1/24/11
10:43
AM ET
A couple of quick tidbits involving SEC players in the East-West Shrine Game over the weekend:

Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker helped punctuate the East's 25-8 win by sacking Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor inside his own 2-yard line, forcing a fumble. The ball rolled into the end zone and was recovered for a East touchdown by North Carolina's Marvin Austin.

It wasn't the best day for Auburn place-kicker Wes Byrum, who kicked the game-winning field goal in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game. He was 1-of-3 on field goals in the Shrine Game, missing a 44-yarder that was short and a 27-yarder that was wide right. According to the Scouts Inc. analysts who were at the game, Byrum's lack of leg strength was noticeable in the windy conditions.

Georgia linebacker Akeem Dent, who was second in the SEC this season with 126 tackles, showed up several times during the game, particularly on special teams. The Scouts Inc. analysts were impressed with his straight line speed, and his productivity on special teams should only help his draft stock.

Florida defensive end Justin Trattou had a sack in the game.
In a lot of cases, the defensive line is what has set the SEC apart over the years. When you’re strong up front defensively, you’ve always got a chance.

Who’s the strongest in the SEC this season? Here goes:

[+] EnlargePowe
Icon SMIJerrell Powe is arguably the best interior D-lineman in the SEC.
1. Ole Miss: For the second season in a row, the Rebels will be as formidable as anybody up front defensively. Senior tackle Jerrell Powe is perhaps the best interior defensive lineman in the league, and senior end Kentrell Lockett is one of the better pass-rushers. Between them, Powe and Lockett had 22 tackles for loss last season. It’s also a deep and experienced defensive line, especially at tackle, and the Rebels added a newcomer at end, junior college transfer Wayne Dorsey, who should be a factor right away.

2. Alabama: Players leave to go to the NFL, and Alabama slides in another great one right behind them. Welcome to Nick Saban’s recruiting machine. Junior end Marcell Dareus was the star of the BCS National Championship Game last season and is one of the top NFL draft prospects in the league. He’ll have to wait and see if anything comes of his trip to Miami that’s being investigated by the NCAA, but there’s no shortage of talent. Kerry Murphy may be the next star in the making and could potentially play nose or end in the Tide's scheme.

3. South Carolina: Assistant head coach for the defense Ellis Johnson would like to have a little more depth, but if everybody holds up health-wise, the Gamecocks will be plenty imposing up front defensively. It starts with senior end Cliff Matthews, who’s one of the most complete defensive linemen in the SEC. He had 10 tackles for loss, including seven sacks last season. Senior Ladi Ajiboye and junior Travian Robertson anchor the middle of the line, and both are explosive and powerful.

4. Mississippi State: As the Bulldogs attempt to make their move in Season No. 2 under Dan Mullen, the strength of their football team will be their defensive line. Senior Pernell McPhee is an All-SEC performer at end and should be even better his second time around in the league. Sophomore tackles Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox have both bulked up to the 300-pound range after solid freshman seasons, and the Bulldogs brought in massive junior college tackle James Carmon (6-7, 345 pounds) this spring.

5. Florida: The Florida defensive linemen themselves will tell you that there aren’t any superstars in this group, but there are five seniors returning, not to mention the most talented freshman defensive line class in the country. Senior captain Justin Trattou returns full time to end after playing inside on passing situations last season. He’s healthy, too, after tearing the biceps tendon in his left arm last season. Sophomore tackle Omar Hunter is just waiting to break out, and freshmen Ronald Powell at end and Sharrif Floyd at tackle won’t have to wait long to make an impact.

6. LSU: Some new faces will be counted on to play key roles for the Tigers up front this season, but a veteran remains the centerpiece of this defensive line. Senior tackle Drake Nevis rates up there with Jerrell Powe as one of the top interior linemen in this league. The Tigers are also eager to see what redshirt freshman end Sam Montgomery and redshirt freshman tackle Michael Brockers can do after big springs. Senior Pep Levingston is moving inside to tackle after starting 10 games last season at end. One thing the Tigers would like to generate more of is sacks. They only had 21 last season, which was tied for eighth in the SEC.

[+] EnlargeWalker
AP Photo/John RaouxChris Walker led the Vols with six sacks last season.
7. Tennessee: The Vols have excellent depth at the end positions, starting with senior Chris Walker, who led the team with six sacks last season. Seniors Ben Martin and Gerald Williams also return at end, while former Southern California end Malik Jackson will be eligible to play this season after transferring from the Trojans. Tennessee doesn’t have much depth inside, but Montori Hughes and Marlon Walls both had solid freshman seasons. The Vols can’t afford for either, though, to go down with an injury.

8. Georgia: With the Bulldogs switching to a 3-4 defense under first-year coordinator Todd Grantham, some guys will be playing new positions. One of the keys will be junior DeAngelo Tyson at the nose and establishing some depth behind him. Grantham wants to get to a point where he has a steady rotation up front, but that may take another recruiting class or so. Senior Demarcus Dobbs is the starter at one end, while sophomore Abry Jones impressed Grantham in the spring at the other end spot.

9. Auburn: The Tigers lost their top playmaker up front last season in Antonio Coleman and are hopeful senior Antoine Carter can step in and be that guy this season at end. The first thing Auburn has to do if it’s going be a better defense this season is be stingier against the run. Senior Mike Blanc returns at one tackle, and the Tigers are also counting on a big season from junior tackle Nick Fairley, who showed flashes a year ago. Another guy to watch is redshirt freshman end Nosa Eguae, who would have played last season had it not been for a stress fracture in his left foot.

10. Arkansas: The Hogs will be better on defense this season. So says Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, and they’ll need to be better if they’re going to make a run in the Western Division race. The depth should be better, although losing Malcolm Sheppard in the middle is a killer. Junior end Jake Bequette had 5.5 sacks last season and is one of those guys who could really blossom this season. Junior Zach Stadther returns at one tackle. Sophomore Tenarius Wright missed the spring with a foot injury, but will also be a key at the other end position.

11. Kentucky: The big blow for the Wildcats was losing tackle Corey Peters, who was dominant a year ago and made everybody around him that much better. Replacing him will be a chore, but Kentucky hopes Mark Crawford can have a breakout season inside after coming over from junior college last year. Speaking of breakout seasons, senior end DeQuin Evans emerged as one of the most productive pass-rushers in the league last season, his first in the SEC after coming over from junior college. He finished with 12.5 tackles for loss, including six sacks.

12. Vanderbilt: The bad news is that senior tackle Adam Smotherman tore his ACL early in spring practice. The good news is that he’s recovering quicker than anybody could have imagined and has a chance to be back for at least part of the season. The Commodores need Smotherman and T.J. Greenstone there in the middle, especially after losing three key senior defensive linemen to graduation. It was a struggle for Vanderbilt up front defensively in the fourth quarter last season. That will again be the challenge in 2010.

SEC media days lineup: Day 3

July, 23, 2010
7/23/10
8:08
AM ET
HOOVER, Ala. -- The SEC media days wrap up today with Auburn, Tennessee, LSU and Ole Miss taking center stage.

Here's the complete lineup:

From 9:30 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. ET: Auburn and Tennessee

The players attending for Auburn are offensive tackle Lee Ziemba, linebacker Josh Bynes and safety Aairon Savage.

The players attending for Tennessee are tight end Luke Stocker, defensive end Chris Walker and linebacker Nick Reveiz.

From 11:50 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET: LSU and Ole Miss

The players attending for LSU are quarterback Jordan Jefferson, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and cornerback Patrick Peterson.

The players attending for Ole Miss are offensive tackle Bradley Sowell, defensive tackle Jerrell Powe and defensive end Kentrell Lockett.

Welcome to the 'Coach O' Bowl

November, 12, 2009
11/12/09
1:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

They’re dubbing it the “Coach O” Bowl.

 
 Joe Murphy/Getty Images
 Tennessee assistant Ed Orgeron will coach against some of his former recruits at Ole Miss for the first time.
Ole Miss’ players are talking about it. Tennessee’s players are talking about it. So are Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin.

The only person who isn’t talking is Ed Orgeron.

He’s declined all interview requests this week as he gets ready to go back to Oxford, where he recruited a slew of talented players and won very few games.

Some of the Ole Miss players swear by him. Junior defensive tackle Jerrell Powe, for instance, talked at length this August about the impact Orgeron had on his football career and how Orgeron continued to believe in him despite it looking like for the longest time that Powe would never become eligible.

Then there’s some who’d probably like to swear at him, not that the volatile Orgeron would be taken aback by such language.

He was known to light into his players verbally.

So much so that senior receiver Shay Hodge told The Jackson Clarion-Ledger following the Rebels’ win over Northern Arizona last week that this game was “personal” for a lot of the players.

“Coach O never did anything to me, but the way I saw him treat some people, I know some guys are going to come out with a real fire in their belly and get after them pretty bad,” Hodge said.

Perhaps it was Ole Miss junior defensive end Kentrell Lockett who shed the most candid perspective on Orgeron’s time in Oxford.

In short, he’s one of the best defensive line coaches in college football and one of the most dogged recruiters in college football. But as a head coach …

He was 0-8 in the SEC in his final season and lost 21 of the 24 games he coached in against SEC teams.

“Great guy, but he just wasn’t that head coach,” Lockett told the Clarion-Ledger. “He was a great D-line coach, but he wasn’t that head coach. I haven’t talked to him since [Orgeron was fired]. I might get a chance to talk to him after the game Saturday, might not.

“But life goes on, you know?”

And so has Orgeron. He’s been a huge part of Tennessee’s recruiting machine under Kiffin and has made quite an impression on the Vols’ players.

Yes, he’s still loud with that unmistakable voice. And, yes, he’s been known to rip off his shirt to fire up the guys.

But you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody on Tennessee’s team to say a negative word about him.

His fire has epitomized the way the Vols have played this season and is a big reason they’ve won three of their last four games and are playing their best football right now.

“Yes, Coach O can take it up a notch,” Tennessee junior defensive end Chris Walker said. “We have only seen a little bit of it. We know he can be more intense than he has been, so we’re kind of expecting it this week.

“He’s an awesome coach to play for. He teaches us the details of things we haven’t learned since we’ve been here.”

Kiffin says in a lot of ways that Orgeron was a more important piece to this coaching staff puzzle than even Kiffin’s dad, Monte.

In fact, the two Kiffins went down to Destin, Fla., to recruit Orgeron together when it looked like he might be going to LSU. They changed his mind that day.

“Having worked with him at USC, he knows exactly what I want and exactly how I want to do it,” Kiffin said. “We had to have him.”

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- We knew this Tennessee defense had a chance to be pretty good.

But the Vols have been smothering to this point. Granted, much of their dominance is due to the fact that Western Kentucky is awful on offense.

Still, here we are with less than 10 minutes to play in the second quarter, and Western Kentucky has run 12 plays for a total of minus-13 yards.

Defensive end Chris Walker was a star in the spring and preseason for the Vols. It looks like he's going to be a star this season, too. He's a blur getting to the quarterback. His partner on the other side, Gerald Williams, gives the the Vols the kind of pass-rushing tandem they haven't had in a while.

SEC names to remember

May, 19, 2009
5/19/09
12:21
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Everybody knows who the stars are in this league. Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, Jevan Snead, Eric Berry and Terrence Cody are just a few.

It's always fun, though, to look at guys who didn't necessarily go into spring practice as household names, but have a chance to be household names come fall.

Here are 10 names to remember in the SEC (listed alphabetically):

Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas: It was obvious watching him as a freshman that Adams had some special gifts. He showed this spring that he can also be a special player.

Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: It's not every day that a true freshman walks onto campus in the SEC and establishes himself as the starter at cornerback. Gilmore did it in a spring.

Winston Guy, S, Kentucky: The Wildcats' coaches think Guy can be a perfect complement to cornerback Trevard Lindley. Guy was one of Kentucky's most improved players in the spring.

Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama: There's a pretty fair linebacker on Alabama's roster by the name of Rolando McClain. Hightower is cut from that same mold.

Terence Jeffers, WR, Vanderbilt: After sitting out last year following his transfer from Connecticut, Jeffers was the Commodores' most dynamic offensive threat in the spring.

Pernell McPhee, DT, Mississippi State: Some junior college players get it right away, and some take a little longer to adjust. McPhee will anchor the Bulldogs' defensive line in 2009.

Drake Nevis, DT, LSU: Don't feel too sorry for the Tigers after losing the likes of Tyson Jackson, Ricky Jean-Francois and Kirston Pittman. Nevis should be a force in the middle.

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: The SEC has its share of accomplished cornerbacks, but look for Peterson to play his way into the upper echelon next season. He has star written all over him.

Deonte Thompson, WR, Florida: Somebody has to fill the "Percy Position." Thompson has the speed, burst and big-play capability to be that kind of performer for the Gators.

Chris Walker, DE, Tennessee: Walker was solid for the Vols last season. He was downright unblockable this past spring, which is bad news for those teams trying to block him in the fall.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

How about a few helmet stickers from the spring?

Yeah, yeah, I know. They don't play any games against real opponents, just spring games and scrimmages.

But there's still plenty of material to work with, so here goes:

Best numbers: Did you see some of the receiving statistics the Arkansas receivers put up? Joe Adams and Jarius Wright, in particular, had touchdown-fests this spring. Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is hoping that's good news for his offense and not necessarily bad news for the Hogs' defense.

Best performance by a freshman: Easy choice here. South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore walked onto campus after graduating from high school early and promptly won one of the starting cornerback jobs. Steve Spurrier is also going to give him a shot to play quarterback in certain situations. And if that's not enough, Spurrier said recently on the booster club speaking circuit that Gilmore is one of the best football players to ever come to South Carolina.

Best no-show: For a guy who was supposed to be next in line to take over for Knowshon Moreno, Georgia's Caleb King sure had a pretty mediocre spring. He has gobs of talent. What he's yet to prove is that he has the toughness to be a great running back in this league.

Best comeback: Has to be LSU's Chad Jones. The Tigers tried to play him at too many positions in 2008 and he didn't play up to his potential. But he's at free safety to stay now under new defensive coordinator John Chavis and was a force this spring. Look for him to be a force in the fall as well.

Best surprise: Some thought Alabama's Robby Green was barely big enough to be a cornerback in the SEC. But he played plenty big this spring and laid claim to Rashad Johnson's old safety position. Talk about some big shoes to fill, but Green is smart, tough and driven -- all the qualities Nick Saban likes in a player.

Best surprise II: Florida's found itself a quarterback. OK, a backup quarterback. John Brantley was slinging the ball over the field in Gainesville this spring, and Urban Meyer was impressed enough to say that Brantley would see meaningful action next season. Maybe they'll line Tim Tebow up in the slot and let Brantley throw to him.

Best news: It was actually post-spring, but Auburn receiver signee DeAngelo Benton received word from the NCAA Clearinghouse that he was eligible to play next fall. Benton was a "must-have" for the Tigers.

Best hands: Some of the catches Vanderbilt receiver Terence Jeffers made this spring had his teammates oohing and aahing. The transfer from Connecticut isn't too bad after the catch, either. He's still working toward passing enough credit hours to be eligible in the fall, but Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said at the end of spring that he was somewhat optimistic that Jeffers would make it. The Commodores sure need him to.

Best breakthrough: We'll start with Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker, who's joined in that club by Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Trahan, Georgia running back Carlton Thomas, Kentucky safety Winston Guy and Alabama safety Robby Green.

Best quote: "The feeling around here is that we've got new life. We've got a new coaching staff, a new offense, a new attitude. Coach (Dan) Mullen said everybody was starting back to square one. That changed everybody's attitude, because everybody was going to get a chance to show what they could do," Mississippi State tailback Anthony Dixon on the impact of the new coaching staff.

Best quote II: "The number I'll be looking at is wins. Nobody wants to go through what we did last season," Auburn defensive end Antonio Coleman on how many sacks he'll get in 2009.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

How about a few helmet stickers from the spring?

Yeah, yeah, I know. They don't play any games against real opponents, just spring games and scrimmages.

But there's still plenty of material to work with, so here goes:

Best numbers: Did you see some of the receiving statistics the Arkansas receivers put up? Joe Adams and Jarius Wright, in particular, had touchdown-fests this spring. Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is hoping that's good news for his offense and not necessarily bad news for the Hogs' defense.

Best performance by a freshman: Easy choice here. South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore walked onto campus after graduating from high school early and promptly won one of the starting cornerback jobs. Steve Spurrier is also going to give him a shot to play quarterback in certain situations. And if that's not enough, Spurrier said recently on the booster club speaking circuit that Gilmore is one of the best football players to ever come to South Carolina.

Best no-show: For a guy who was supposed to be next in line to take over for Knowshon Moreno, Georgia's Caleb King sure had a pretty mediocre spring. He has gobs of talent. What he's yet to prove is that he has the toughness to be a great running back in this league.

Best comeback: Has to be LSU's Chad Jones. The Tigers tried to play him at too many positions in 2008 and he didn't play up to his potential. But he's at free safety to stay now under new defensive coordinator John Chavis and was a force this spring. Look for him to be a force in the fall as well.

Best surprise: Some thought Alabama's Robby Green was barely big enough to be a cornerback in the SEC. But he played plenty big this spring and laid claim toRashad Johnson 's old safety position. Talk about some big shoes to fill, but Green is smart, tough and driven -- all the qualities Nick Saban likes in a player.

Best surprise II: Florida's found itself a quarterback. OK, a backup quarterback. John Brantley was slinging the ball over the field in Gainesville this spring, and Urban Meyer was impressed enough to say that Brantley would see meaningful action next season. Maybe they'll line Tim Tebow up in the slot and let Brantley throw to him.

Best news: It was actually post-spring, but Auburn receiver signee DeAngelo Benton received word from the NCAA Clearinghouse that he was eligible to play next fall. Benton was a "must-have" for the Tigers.

Best hands: Some of the catches Vanderbilt receiver Terence Jeffers made this spring had his teammates oohing and aahing. The transfer from Connecticut isn't too bad after the catch, either. He's still working toward passing enough credit hours to be eligible in the fall, but Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said at the end of spring that he was somewhat optimistic that Jeffers would make it. The Commodores sure need him to.

Best breakthrough: We'll start with Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker, who's joined in that club by Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Trahan, Georgia running back Carlton Thomas, Kentucky safety Winston Guy and Alabama safety Robby Green.

Best quote: "The feeling around here is that we've got new life. We've got a new coaching staff, a new offense, a new attitude. Coach (Dan) Mullen said everybody was starting back to square one. That changed everybody's attitude, because everybody was going to get a chance to show what they could do," Mississippi State tailback Anthony Dixon on the impact of the new coaching staff.

Best quote II: "The number I'll be looking at is wins. Nobody wants to go through what we did last season," Auburn defensive end Antonio Coleman on how many sacks he'll get in 2009.

SPONSORED HEADLINES