Cavon Walker com­pletes his trans­for­ma­tion

For­mer line­backer packs on more than 60 pounds and will start at de­fen­sive tackle

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND STATE ATHLETIC HALL OF FAME - By Don Markus don.markus@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/sport­sprof56

COL­LEGE PARK — Long be­fore trans­form­ing from a line­backer to a de­fen­sive tackle at Mary­land, long be­fore gain­ing more than 60 pounds and the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing the strong­est player on the team, Cavon Walker might have led the Terps in one cat­e­gory: calo­ries con­sumed.

“Com­ing in at 218 [pounds], me­liv­ing on cam­pus, I was in the diner a lot,” the now 280-pound Walker said Tues­day.

Af­ter trans­form­ing his body, the red­shirt ju­nior from Wash­ing­ton earned a start­ing job in Sat­ur­day’s sea­son opener against Howard. Sea­son opener Sat­ur­day, noon TV: Big Ten Net­work Ra­dio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM “I en­joy just be­ing able to go and be ag­gres­sive and at­tack ev­ery sin­gle play,” said Cavon Walker, who thinks the move to de­fen­sive tackle suits him bet­ter.

A foot in­jury cost him most of his sopho­more sea­son. Af­ter Walker went from about 240 pounds to nearly 260 dur­ing his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, then-coach Randy Ed­sall sug­gested he switch to de­fen­sive tackle. The fi­nal 15 pounds came dur­ing the off­sea­son, mostly through a new diet and rig­or­ous rou­tine.

“I was try­ing to eat a lit­tle bet­ter to put on the weight the right way. I knew I needed to get big­ger to play in­side,” said Walker, whose first name is pro­nounced SAY-von. “I was al­ready strong, so now I can be a dom­i­nant player in­side.”

Hav­ing played de­fen­sive end in high school at Friend­ship Col­le­giate, start­ing as a 160-pound fresh­man, Walker knew how to play with his hand in the dirt. Walker said his skills as a line­backer will trans­late up front.

“When I played [strong-side line­backer], I had to check the slot [re­ceiver], so jammed a lot,” Walker said. “When I punch, my punch power is very — I don’t want to build my­self — but I’m a very strong guy. I’m good with my hands and kept myspeedup­with­theweight.”

First-year coach DJ Durkin, a for­mer col­lege line­backer, said it will take some ad­just­ment for Walker.

“When you’re on the line of scrim­mage lined up right over a guy, it’s a dif­fer­ent set of skills,” Durkin said. “It’s much more tech­ni­cal and de­fined when you’re play­ing de­fen­sive line.

“The lit­tlest step, the lit­tlest hand place­ment or eyes in the wrong place can re­ally get you in trou­ble. The fur­ther you get from the ball, you have more lee­way.”

Walker said he thinks the de­fen­sive tackle po­si­tion suits him bet­ter.

“At line­backer, there’s a lot more think­ing than there is on the D-line, and I en­joy just be­ing able to go and be ag­gres­sive and at­tack ev­ery sin­gle play,” Walker said. “In the trenches, you’re fight­ing all day long. You’ve got to make the plays when they come your way.”

Walker was one of four play­ers from Friend­ship Col­le­giate who came to Mary­land in 2013 and was per­haps the least her­alded. Yan­nick Ngak­oue left af­ter set­ting a sin­gle­sea­son school record for sacks last year and was a third-round draft choice of the Jack­sonville Jaguars. Jer­maine Carter Jr. starts at mid­dle line­backer, and Der­win Gray backs up se­nior Michael Dunn at of­fen­sive tackle.

Walker said he used to kid with Carter about who would weigh more.

“I used to joke, ‘You’re get­ting big. You’re go­ing to be the one play­ing D-line next,’ ” Walker said. “And it hap­pened to me. I gained all the weight. It hurt my chance for a while, but as I got used to the weight, things got bet­ter. It’s just like I’m 220 again. I just look way big­ger.”

ROB KINNAN/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

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