One of UGA's most promising young players on defense is Quay Walker.
The sophomore is battling for the No. 1 job at inside linebacker with senior Tae Crowder and junior Monty Rice, among others. Walker has gotten himself into contention for more playing time after getting into much better shape after being in UGA's strength and conditioning program for more than a year.
"In the middle of June, we were (at Georgia) for a passing-league tournament," said Brad Harber, who coached Walker at Crisp County (Ga.) High School. "In the past few years at that event, Quay has been walking through the field after class, and he'll see all the guys and the coaches (from Crisp County).
"(Quay) laughs at me because I tell him he's getting taller or I'm getting shorter or older. But he doesn't have trouble with his weight. I think they want him around 230 or 235. I know at one time he got up to around 240.
"To me, he looked leaner than what he was in high school. He's a physical specimen anyways. But he looked good when we saw him a (few weeks ago)."
The 6-foot-4 Walker narrowly and famously signed with UGA over Tennessee. Last year as a freshman, Walker appeared in all 14 games, and was named by the Bulldogs as co-winner of Special Teams Newcomer of the Year.
"I felt confident that Quay was going to be successful I knew that going off to a big university like Georgia, there was going to be a learning curve," Harber said. "Quay has always been physically gifted. The big thing was learning the language at Georgia. We had the chance to watch Georgia's spring practices with some other recruits we have (at our high school), and it was nice to see Quay in the two-deep rotation."
When UGA's coaches stopped by Crisp County on the recruiting trail within the last few months, they've also given encouraging reports on Walker. His mental approach to the game is quickly catching up with his elite athletic skills.
"Just in talking with people close to the program, obviously with the football and academic workload, he's gotten more comfortable with all of that the day-to-day operations," Harber said. "It looks to me, outside looking in, he's starting to understand the defensive playbook better. Anytime you do that, it gives you better opportunities to get on the field to play."
Probably the only football topic on Walker's mind more than the playbook right now is the competition at his position. It will be hard to unseat Crowder, who is a fifth-year senior that is finally in position to start. Then again, it will be hard to keep Walker off the field this season after a strong showing in the spring.
"To me, it's all starting to come together his knowledge of the playbook and the system, along with playing on special teams," Harber said. "I think he's going to have a really good year. I would guess that he's going to get more playing time.
"It looked to me when he was playing spring ball that he was in a two-deep rotation. I know that there are a lot of elite players at Georgia right now, especially at the linebacker spot. But I see Quay as a guy who will have the opportunity to get plenty of playing time this season."
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