Notre Dame, IN (UHND.com) – Jeff Jeffers from WNDU out of South Bend reported tonight that Notre Dame junior running back Darius Walker will “very likely test the NFL waters, and enter April’s draft.” The news of Walker’s likely decision to forgo his senior season raises a lot of questions about tomorrow’s 1:00 press conference that Charlie Weis scheduled yesterday.Rumors were rampant across the internet that tomorrow’s press conference was likely to announce changes to the defensive coaching staff, but in light of the Walker news which broke tonight, those rumors now have to be seriously questioned.
Walker finished this season with his second consecutive 1,000 yard rushing campaign, but the news of him heading to the NFL probably comes as a shock to most Irish fans. While Walker has put up good numbers the past two seasons, he has not been considered one of the elite backs in college football and did not land on any major All American lists this post season.
Walker might be hoping to capitalize on an outstanding first half performance against LSU in the Sugar Bowl after running for over 120 yards in the first thirty minutes alone. He was, however, rendered ineffective in the second half when the Irish were forced into a pass only attack.
With a number of talented backs on the Irish roster and another outstanding back in Armando Allen landing on campus next week, the loss of Walker is something Notre Dame should be able to withstand. Travis Thomas is expected to return for a fifth year and switch back to running back. Freshmen Munir Prince and James Aldridge also showed a lot of promise in limited action this year.
Notre Dame is also currently pursuing talented running back Robert Hughes who has said playing time is a big priority for him. With Walker’s likely departure, the Irish may have just started to look a little better in Hughes’s eye.
The move by Walker is still quite curious considering he had a very good chance to finish next year as the all time leading rusher in Notre Dame history. Jeffer’s report did not mention if Walker signed with an agent or not, so its still not completely out of the question that Walker may just be testing the waters to see where his draft stock is.
The knack on Walker all along has been his lack of elite speed. In the Sugar Bowl we saw a gear out of Walker that we had not seen all year. He looked much faster and turned some corners he wasn’t turning earlier in the year.
Notre Dame will be starting at least three new offensive linemen next year as well as a new quarterback so its possible Walker looked at the situation and thought another year in a rebuilt offense couldn’t help his stock any more. It’s also possible that Walker looked at some of the younger running backs on the roster and felt he might lose some carries which would also not help his stock any.
Whatever the reason, the news of Walker has raised some questions about whether or not coaching changes will be announced tomorrow as rumors had suggested across all of the Notre Dame message boards on Tuesday.
We’ll have more on this as more information becomes available.