Each Saturday this summer, SI Sooners examines 10 players on the Oklahoma roster who can elevate their ceiling in 2021 with a big offseason. Today: offensive lineman Brey Walker.
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Brey Walker committed to Oklahoma in November 2015. Almost six years later, he’s still trying to make a lasting impact on the Sooners’ starting lineup.
Now a fourth-year junior, the 6-foot-6, 353-pound Walker has played in 17 career games – 13 of those during the 2019 season – but always seems right on the verge of breaking into the two-deep.
Offensive line is tough at a place like OU. All five starters from Bill Bedenbaugh’s 2018 Joe Moore Award-winning front – that was Walker’s freshman season – are now in the NFL. Two of last year’s starting five are collecting NFL paychecks.
But what’s keeping Walker out of the starting lineup isn’t who’s in the pros. It’s who’s in Norman.
Both guys who won a starting job at guard in 2019 – Tyrese Robinson and Marquis Hayes – returned in 2020, and they’re both back in 2021. It’s tough to break into the starting lineup when the returning starters keep coming back.
Walker has the gift/curse of versatility. He will ideally slot in at guard, but he can also slide out and play tackle. Focusing on just one or the other might help his development, but his willingness to help the team and play where he’s needed has been an asset to the group and to him individually, and it may yet pay big dividends.
“Brey Walker, shoot, he’s really come on. Been really impressed with him,” Bedenbaugh said during spring practice. “… We’ve got a lot of competition. If everybody’s there, if everybody’s healthy, we’ve got 6-8 guys that could play guard that I feel really, really good about. I don’t know that I’ve had that anywhere. So he’s had to really step it up, and he’s done a hell of a job, especially these last 4-5 days. Him doing a good job allowed me to move somebody else to left guard, he was playing so well at right guard.”
Walker grew up in nearby Moore. He transferred from Southmoore to Westmoore before his senior season, was ranked as the top overall prospect in the state of Oklahoma, a 5-star recruit by 247 Sports and a 4-star by Rivals and ESPN, and was named a U.S. Army All-American. 247 Sports ranked him as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the country, while ESPN and Rivals had him in the top five. Walker pledged to the Sooners as a high school sophomore, eight months after Bedenbaugh offered him a scholarship.
Walker also got offers from Oklahoma State, Alabama, Michigan, Georgia, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Arkansas, and although he took a handful of official and unofficial visits, he never wavered from his commitment to OU.
Stepping up at Oklahoma
Walker redshirted in 2018, playing in just one game. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, Walker played in 13 of the Sooners’ 14 games, including starts at right guard against Texas Tech and Kansas when right tackle Adrian Ealy was injured and Robinson stepped out to play tackle.
In 2020, it appeared Walker would be slated for more action. Instead, the offseason shutdown and a disjointed preseason affected the entire offensive line’s development, and Walker played in just three games.
“Got a little dinged, wasn’t available at the end of the season,” Lincoln Riley said in January, “but he, I thought, made some really good progress behind the scenes.”
Walker has continued to put in the work this offseason, and Bedenbaugh said during the spring that Walker made strides during winter workouts. One of the offensive line’s directives was to shed fat and add muscle – Bedenbaugh wants them quicker and leaner – and although Walker’s scale didn’t move much, he does look different.
“It’s not just totally about weight. It’s the weight that you have on you,” Bedenbaugh said. “Like, Brey Walker, who’s doing a really good job right now, I mean, he’s 360 pounds, 50, whatever it is, and he looks like he’s 320.
"So it’s just a matter of the weight that you have on you. And what’s happened now is a lot of these guys have lost some of that bad weight, and now they can start building it back up from here on out with good weight.”
Some personnel changes along the offensive front have affected Walker’s standing as well. Walker was the No. 2 left tackle in the Red/White Game, but that starting job appears to belong to Tennessee transfer Wanya Morris, which facilitated two-year starter Erik Swenson’s move to the right side. And Stacey Wilkins’ entry into the NCAA transfer portal on Friday likely means Walker and sophomore Anton Harrison are now officially the backup tackles.
Returning starters (and Morris) aren’t Walker’s only competition.
Redshirt freshman Aaryn Parks (right tackle), third-year sophomore Marcus Alexander (left guard) and fourth-year junior Darrell Simpson (right guard) worked alongside Walker with the No. 2 offense in the spring game. Other transfers, like Chris Murray and Robert Congel, are also vying for snaps at guard and center. And Bedenbaugh continues to recruit impressive young talent like freshmen Savion Byrd and Cullen Montgomery.
Walker still has a bright future at Oklahoma. He needs to have a productive offseason to push for backup snaps in 2021, and then in 2022, with Swenson gone, Robinson and Hayes graduated and Morris possibly in the NFL Draft, Walker would figure to be in line to start – but would he be a starting tackle, or a starting guard?