Cavon Walker completes his transformation
Former linebacker packs on more than 60 pounds and will start at defensive tackle
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.”