Georgia’s defensive line so far this season has been dominant, and it’s no contest that Tray Scott‘s unit has been the most complete package on the team. The Bulldogs’ defensive line is deep with many impact players, and they are the most physical bunch on the field.
Georgia’s defense hasn’t given up a rushing touchdown through eight games this season, and the defensive line is a hungry group that wants to shut down opponents’ run game. Georgia has the best run defense in the SEC, and the fourth-best in the country. This past Saturday, they gave up 21 yards against the Florida Gators.
There were questions coming into the season about Scott’s unit, but to many people’s surprise, there have been a few players that have shined. Guys like Malik Herring, Tyler Clark, and Jordan Davis have made big plays in key moments this year. Devonte Wyatt has even been a consistent player that Scott can rely on, but there is one player that head coach Kirby Smart thinks can get more involved.
Freshman Travon Walker is a 6-foot-5 280 pound freak of an athlete. The Thomaston, GA. native arrived in Athens in early June, and by the opener against Vanderbilt he had earned a starting job on the kickoff team. Smart and defensive coordinator Dan Lanning frequently use Walker on third down because he is an excellent pass rusher.
“He’s got a lot of promise because he’s got a lot of heart. We’ve got to find ways to use his talents more,” Smart said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “He’s playing but he’s a talented player.”
Walker has proven he is also just more than a great pass rusher. It’s evident that he is great at playing the spy on the quarterback, and he can adjust to opponents’ audibles so he can read the play very well.
“Ah he’s talented, he’s bright, and he’s conscientious” Smart said. “He’s one of those people that takes pride in his performance every day so he’ll watch the tape and say, ‘Man, I see what you’re saying coach. I can do better than that,’ and he raises his standard. He gives tremendous effort when he’s one the scout team. He comes over to our group, works really hard. He’s got a lot of promise because because he’s got a lot of heart. We’ve got to find ways to use his talents more. He’s playing but he’s a talented player.”
In high school, Walker injured his wrist, and that followed him into college. He missed the South Carolina and Kentucky games after having a minor surgical procedure on it. Walker did play against Florida and helped the defense in a huge way. He batted down one of Kyle Trask’s passes which helped to end on of Florida’s drives. That forced the Gators to kick a field goal.
Smart recalled that it was one of the biggest plays in the game and one that nobody really gave Walker credit for.
Fellow defensive lineman Malik Herring commented about Walker that he was a gifted talent and that Georgia was the right fit for him.
“Travon is just a freak, and I mean man that man’s a real freak,” Herring said. “He’s long, he can run fast and he’s strong. his future is probably going to be way better than mine.”
Georgia’s depth on the defensive line is one of the main components of why Walker hasn’t reached his full potential yet. There are a few positives with having such great depth though. It means that younger guys like Walker get meaningful playing time, and the rotation down the depth chart provides fresher legs. Having fresh legs can mean that everyone can be more of an impact.
Last year Georgia’s defensive line wasn’t as deep, and that showed in all the games the Bulldogs lost last season. In 2018, Georgia didn’t defend the run very well, and it all starts with the defensive line up front. Maybe Walker is the key piece to the puzzle, but only time will tell if he becomes more of a significant player.
Here is the video from Kirby Smart’s Tuesday presser: