Jimbo Fisher’s recent recruiting hot streak continued on Tuesday as the Aggies secured a verbal commitment from Smyrna, TN defensive tackle Dallas Walker. As the resident defensive lineman here at Good Bull Hunting, it seemed fitting that my first task be the study of the film of a recent defensive line commit. Now, let’s get straight to the film.
It’s not often that I get to see a 6’4”, 315-pound defensive tackle line up as a wide receiver on film but that was one of the first things I noticed today when I took a glimpse at the film of the most recent addition to Texas A&M’s 2020 recruiting class. At the 0:38 mark on his junior highlights, Walker splits out, runs a flat route, and makes a diving catch. While this doesn’t really have much pertinence when it comes to playing defensive tackle, big man touchdowns will always earn a smile from me.
Several more of Walker’s highlights come on the offensive side of the ball, where the talented prospect mostly serves as a tight end. While these highlights may not serve to give us an idea of how Walker will fare in the trenches of the SEC, they do give glimpses into some instincts that Walker possesses. For starters, Walker is constantly looking to finish his blocks and plays to the whistle. That kind of motor is invaluable at the defensive tackle position.
However, as Dallas Walker is being recruited as a defensive tackle, I was much more interested in what he looked like on the defensive side of the ball.
There are a handful of little things I look at when evaluating a defensive line prospect. First and foremost, I look at the quickness of the first step. Unfortunately with Walker playing as a stand-up defensive end for a lot of his film, it’s a little bit tough to get a read on. However, with the quickness Walker shows at other points of the film, either offensively or changing directions defensively, I believe that the talented prospect will be sufficiently quick with his first step when he adjusts to playing out of a three point stance more often.
The second part of the equation that I’m looking at for a defensive tackle is the hand quickness. Even if a defensive lineman isn’t technically sound, he can often make up for it with quick, strong hands that are able to fight off blocks. Unlike his first step, Walker constantly shows the ability to use his hands to defeat would-be blockers. The first example comes at the 2:01 mark of his film, where he hits the offensive lineman with a quick swim inside that gives the poor kid zero time to react. While it isn’t as technically sound as I would like, he’ll have plenty of time to develop that side of things. However, the quickness he displayed there can’t be taught.
Finally, the last major thing I’m looking for in a defensive lineman is the toughness. As I mentioned earlier, Walker finishes every block on the offensive side of the ball, but he also tries to finish opponents on the defensive side of the ball. Walker isn’t just looking to make a play when he has a chance to hit an offensive player, he’s trying to explode through, which bodes well for his future in a division as tough as the SEC West. My favorite example of this on film comes at the 2:33 mark. Walker isn’t able to get to the passer but immediately after the release he plants a foot in the ground and gets downfield to pursue the receiver. The receiver makes a cutback after breaking a tackle but Walker comes through and levels the receiver showcasing that motor we talked about earlier, the athleticism necessary to pursue, as well as the toughness that will make him a contributor at the next level.
There are a few things Walker will need to work on to become a contributor in the SEC, as good as a prospect as he seems to be. The first issue I noticed is his pad level. As a defensive tackle, he’ll need to be lower than opposing offensive linemen, which he struggles to do on film, undoubtedly because he is able to beat opponents due to his greater strength and athleticism. However, this isn’t an uncommon problem for young defensive lineman, especially when playing as a stand-up defensive end.
Additionally, he will need to shore up his handfighting technique. The swim move I mentioned earlier will need to be tighter in college as a higher swim move leaves a target for opposing offensive lineman. There were also a few occasions on the bull rush where Walker failed to get his hands inside on the offensive linemen. He managed to drive them back on pure strength, which is a plus, but he will have to become more consistent with his hand placement to be successful at the next level.
Overall, I was impressed with what I saw from the prospect out of Smyrna, TN. Texas A&M fans should be thrilled to add depth at the defensive tackle position, a place where SEC teams can never have enough depth.