Gridiron Newcomers: Malcolm Walker

It's rare to see one of the most productive junior college linebackers in the country walk-on at any program - particularly when said linebacker is in possession of an offer from an SEC school. But that's just what Malcolm Walker of Corsicana (TX) Navarro College did, eschewing an offer from Mississippi State to come to Kansas - and the decision is already paying dividends for the Jayhawks.

If one assumes that it's rare to see one of the most productive junior college linebackers in the country walk on to a Division One program when his JUCO career is complete – and it is – then the case of Malcolm Walker is even more unusual.

Walker, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound outside linebacker from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, led the Bulldogs with 86 tackles as a sophomore in 2010, leading the Bulldogs to a National Junior College Athletics Association championship.

With his speed, strength and productivity, Walker had offers on the table - including one from the SEC as Mississippi State had come calling. By early February, though they'd scouted him and liked what they saw, the Kansas Jayhawks simply didn't have a scholarship left to give.

A fact which, fortunately, didn't matter to Walker.

Eschewing the certainty of scholarships from other programs, he chose instead to walk on with the Jayhawks and earn one the old-fashioned way. And that decision is looking to be a blessing for Head Coach Turner Gill and his defensive coaching staff in a number of ways.

Enrolling early, Walker went through spring drills and immediately began impressing his coaches and teammates - drawing praise from both Gill and former defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Carl Torbush.

Fans caught a glimpse of his ability during the annual Spring Game on April 30, as he led all defenders with seven tackles.

Walker's addition gives the Jayhawks even more versatility in the linebacking corps, a position at which the coaches are looking to stress speed and athleticism - particularly at the outside positions - in an effort to combat the spread-happy offenses of the Big 12.

While losing veterans such as Drew Dudley and Justin Springer certainly hurts - particularly from an experience standpoint - the addition of newcomers such as walker, fellow JC transfer Tunde Bakare and Buffalo transfer Darius Willis give new DC Vic Shealy talented, athletic options to work with who have all seen snaps at some level of collegiate play.

Should the Jayhawks play more of a 3-4 defense as has been suggested during the spring, the linebacking corps could prove to be a position of strength on a defensive unit looking to bounce back from a rough 2010 campaign.

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