This series will feature the top NFL Draft prospects with insight from the beat reporters that covered them in college. This article is just a preview of the full interview which can be heard on the Deep Slant podcast.
Name: Travon Walker
Position: Defensive lineman
Height/Weight: 6-5, 272
Hometown: Thomaston, GA
Below is a portion of Deep Sidhu's interview with JC Shelton, writer for the UGA Wire and host of the UGA Football Live podcast.
Sidhu: What surprised you more? The fact that Travon Walker garnered the sort of attention he did with his Combine performance or that he wasn't already on everyone's radar heading into the Combine?
Shelton: I wouldn't say I was really surprised on the Combine performance just because what I knew from listening to the guys who had been working him out and getting him prepared for the Combine, just the way he had been putting up the numbers that he had. The consensus, at least with the football writers here at Georgia, we kind of expected a big combine performance from him, along with Devonte Wyatt and Jordan Davis. Those guys were really just athletic freaks for their size.
I will say just the aspect of him playing behind some really talented guys at Georgia and sharing time. That defensive line, blueprint for the Kirby Smart and Georgia team is to rotate these guys, so he's not going to be on all the time, which is going to be a good thing too. If you're thinking as NFL team, you know the miles on that guy's body. Think of it like almost like a running back - how many carries he gets? Trayvon, he hasn't been on the field as much as some other defensive linemen in this class, so he's got more fresh legs here. He's got, you know, one of the best defensive minds in college football coaching him up for the last four years. So, I think the signs is good for that. I wouldn't blame anybody for not seeing Trayvon here just because, like I said, the reps he got at Georgia.
Sidhu: Let's talk about those reps. Eight players from that Georgia defense were at the Combine. When he's playing with a group of guys as talented as that front was, how did Walker overcome that to get the meaningful snaps last year?
Shelton: I think it started in his freshman season. Even though he was playing behind some really good senior guys who have been playing and been starting for three years at that point. Malik Herring stands out as one of the guys that was above him when he was a freshman. He (Walker) came in and he still contributed. He's still played 12 games, which is big when you look at it because of how many defensive linemen and four- and five-star guys Georgia has on the team. They knew that he was an athletic freak and somebody who could grow into a guy who could set the edge as a 3-4 defensive end, as well as develop into more of a pass rusher. That's what I'm looking forward to seeing in his development in the next few years. At the next level, is his pass rushing development because Georgia and our system necessarily doesn't ask him to do that. We ask more of our outside linebackers to get that pass rush in, so I'm interested to see what his ability can be as a pass rusher in the future. I think it will be big for him.
Sidhu: He's listed as an interior defensive lineman, mostly, but I've heard him talk about how he likes to play outside and along different spots on that d-line. How much did Georgia move him up and down the defensive line when he was there? And do you think he made the case for himself to be in every-down player?
Shelton: Yeah, so he did get a lot of looks not only in the interior but also in the outside. And honestly, Georgia liked to use him on the outside. He's 272 but the way he could outrun guys - we saw 4.51 in the forty at 272 is absolutely ridiculous. I mean, that's scary. If I'm a running back or quarterback, I'm scared for my life if that guy's running for me right there. That's like not as bad as Jordan Davis at 340, but it's crazy to think because you can use that speed as an outside guy and the size to close off the edge, but still reach and get running backs and get maybe these tight ends who are coming out in the flat and get the speed to get them. So I think he's really benefited from that from Georgia, using him in different places because he has tape at multiple positions, so it can only help him. And like I said, I think he's going to surprise some people in his first few years the way he can play on the outside.
Sidhu: You mentioned the Championship run and some of the big games that he had last year, but in your time covering him, what's a memorable game or a moment or a matchup of Travon Walkers that that really stands out in your mind?
Shelton: I know he had those seven QB pressures versus Alabama. He had another really good game against Clemson, which was big, and that was the first game of the year. So, you're coming out, emotions are high, you're not necessarily in game shape yet. It's a big game for guys to kind of gauge where they're at heading into that season. And for him, it was that final season he was going to head to the draft barring any injuries. He came out and he played great and it was a tough, tough game. I don't know if you remember, but it was 10-3 score. Georgia won by a touchdown, but it was back and forth, a defensive battle. Both offenses really had trouble, but you look back and it was a top-five defense for both teams Clemson and Georgia, which is probably a big reason why. But, at the biggest moment, Travon Walker gets that sack versus DJ (Uiagalelei) towards the end of the game and really helped close that game out for Georgia. Like I said, it was just a touchdown difference so that that game was huge. Georgia went on to win a national championship but I just I think the way he was able to play really well and in a clutch moment, get that sack versus DJ against a really good team, Clemson and the guys and a bunch of NFL guys on that team as well. So, I think his performance there and then you compare that with Alabama and those seven quarterback pressures against and you get those quarterback pressures versus Bryce Young. It's something to say because he gets rid of it so quickly, right? So, I think those are really two that stand out to me.