Georgia's D'Andre Walker knows the impact this season could have on his football future.
When the 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior from the Atlanta suburb of Fairburn arrived in 2015, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins were the first-team outside linebackers for the Bulldogs. After they moved on to the NFL, with Floyd a top-10 overall selection of the Chicago Bears in 2016, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy took over the starting roles and maintained them for two seasons.
The likes of Justin Houston and Jarvis Jones earned national accolades at outside linebacker while Walker was in high school, so he doesn't require a history lesson on the position's lineage in Athens.
"I do feel that we are 'OLB University' and that we do send guys to the league from this position," Walker told reporters earlier this week. "Just coming to the University of Georgia, I feel like you've got a good shot at getting to the NFL."
Walker is not lacking for experience with the Bulldogs, just starting experience. He has played in 41 career games, but next Saturday's opener against visiting Austin Peay is expected to be his first start.
Used routinely last season in passing situations, Walker had 40 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. His tackles for loss ranked just behind the 14 that Butkus Award-winning inside linebacker Roquan Smith compiled, and two of his lost-yardage stops took place in the Rose Bowl victory over Oklahoma.
Walker's first memorable play at Georgia occurred in his very first game, as his blocked punt resulted in a safety during the 51-14 rout of Louisiana-Monroe in the 2015 season opener. He is still part of the kickoff-coverage and punt-return teams.
"That has played a major role in my time here," he said of special teams. "I had to get on the field some kind of way. I still take pride in that."
On the doorstep of the 2018 season, CBS does not have Walker among its top 100 prospects for the 2019 NFL draft. CBS lists four outside linebackers in its top 100, including Mississippi State's Montez Sweat and Kentucky's Josh Allen.
Georgia had a league-leading 12 representatives on the three All-SEC teams as voted on by the conference coaches. The SEC released the teams Thursday.
The Bulldogs had three players named to the first team — kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, cornerback Deandre Baker and safety J.R. Reed — and had a whopping eight second-team representatives: tailback D'Andre Swift, receiver Terry Godwin, tight end Isaac Nauta, tackle Andrew Thomas, center Lamont Gaillard, return specialist Mecole Hardman, defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter and Walker.
Georgia's lone third-team selection was quarterback Jake Fromm.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.