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Sunday, March 24, 2013
Visit to Penn State impresses DT Walker

By Josh Moyer

Defensive tackle Ricky Walker fidgeted with his iPhone on the seven-hour drive back from Penn State on Saturday, surfing the web and listening to Drake to pass the time.

It was a long time to be in a car -- 14 hours in two days -- but the Class of 2014 lineman out of Hampton (Va.) Bethel didn't hesitate when asked if the trip was worth it.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "It was definitely worth the 14 hours. I learned a little bit more about Penn State, and I got to see practice."

Walker's favorite time came during that practice. He stood alone for a few minutes, his eyes following assistant coach Larry Johnson, until DT Jordan Hill introduced himself. Hill, a projected second- or third-round draft pick, stood alongside him and offered honest answers about the recruiting process.

The two walked around the practice field for about an hour, chatting about Penn State football and academics. Walker acknowledged he could feel his heart beat a little faster when Hill initially spoke to him -- "I'd say he would be like my college idol," Walker said -- but Hill's relaxed demeanor quickly put him at ease.

"It was just regular questions," said Walker, who holds 14 offers from the likes of Georgia Tech and Ole Miss. "But I was excited. It felt good talking to him; that was my favorite part. Hopefully, I can get a little bit more film on him."

The 6-foot-2, 270-pound Walker closely watched Hill this past season because PSU's staff said Walker reminded them of the NFL-bound Hill. Walker excitedly talked about Hill's quickness during a phone interview and mentioned, didn't you know, that Hill basically won Penn State the Wisconsin game with nine tackles and two sacks in just the second half.

"The first time I heard from Penn State, Coach Johnson said that's who I remind him of," Walker said. "I've been watching him ever since. I watched film of him with Coach Johnson, and he's pretty good."

Walker toured Beaver Stadium, sat in on some team meetings and saw more of the campus. This was his second trip to Happy Valley, the first of which came during a camp last summer. But he wasn't yet comfortable with explaining how the visit affected his interest level.

Walker wants to reflect on the visit a little more before making a judgment to the media, but he still said he's "pretty sure" the Nittany Lions will make his top five. He plans on taking his recruiting process slowly by making all of his official visits, but he said he didn't feel pressured by Penn State to speed up his decision.

"Coach Johnson said there's no rush during recruiting," said Walker, who can play both the 1- and 3-technique. "He told me to take my time."

Walker did say the visit gave him a better idea of Johnson's coaching style -- and he liked what he saw. He said the coach's energy was infectious. Johnson would run the field with the defensive linemen, hit the bags a couple times at full speed and clap while barking to his players.

Walker won't make it up for the Blue-White Game because he'll be in Tennessee on April 20. But overall, he said, it was definitely a good visit and a good experience.

"Growing up, I always liked Penn State," he said. "When I was younger, I went to a game and just the history -- Joe Paterno, I really like him -- and now to be able to be a recruit, it's just great.

"I'm learning more about the school, the coaches and Coach Johnson, and that's definitely a plus."