By MIKE MARSEE, Advocate-Messenger
LEXINGTON — He wasn’t crazy about the early-morning workouts at the start of Kentucky’s preseason camp, but Kobie Walker said he handled them better than some of his teammates.
The freshman linebacker said he would rather have slept in until, say, noon or so than get up at 4:45 a.m. during the first week of practice last week.
However, he said the preseason workouts he had in high school helped prepare him for what he has faced in the Wildcats’ workouts.
“It’s helped a lot,” Walker said last week at Kentucky’s media day. “When I came here for summer workouts, the workouts that I’ve been doing here have been easy compared to what I’ve been doing back home. We’ve been walking up early, and the running, and a lot of other dudes have been, like, throwing up. It was nothing to me, that adjustment, honestly, it was nothing to me.”
Walker comes from a powerful program at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Md. Four Good Counsel alumni have made the NFL, and eight players have played in major high school all-star games over just the last three years, including wide receiver Stefon Diggs of Maryland and cornerback Kendall Fuller of Virginia Tech.
“Playing against Stefon and Kendall and all those dudes definitely helped a lot,” Walker said.
A three-star recruit, Walker was ranked No. 11 among players in Maryland and No. 35 among all safeties nationally by ESPN.com. He had offers from a handful of Atlantic Coast Conference and Big Ten Conference schools and Oklahoma State of the Big 12, among others. But he chose Kentucky, a program he admitted he knew little about prior to talking to coach Mark Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot.
“Not much honestly. But once I started talking to the staff I began to get interested, came down for visits and I really liked it,” he said.
Walker would also like it if a few more players from the Baltimore-Washington area find their way across the mountains to Kentucky. He is one of only two players on the roster from the mid-Atlantic region, along with redshirt freshman long snapper Connor Itani of Vienna, Va.
If Walker has his way, however, the Wildcats will soon have a pipeline to “the DMV” — the District, Maryland and Virginia. His former teammate, four-star defensive end Darius Fullwood has committed to Kentucky, as has wide receiver Jabari Greenwood of Washington.
“I’d definitely like to get (them) up here. I’m close with both of them,” Walker said. “I’d like to get some of those DMV guys up here, because there’s so many Florida and Ohio guys up here, I’m all alone. I’m trying to get Rahshaun Smith (a defensive end from nearby Towson, Md.) out here in 2016, too.”
When they come, Walker will be ready to tell them about adjusting to the collegiate game.
“It’s definitely been a change,” he said. “The pace is a lot different, a lot faster. I’m getting the playbook down and trying to adjust to what coach Elliot and the defense expects for me to do.”
He said the playbook is far more complex than the one he used in high school.
“We had a lot of stuff at my school as well, but there are a lot of different adjustments to what the offense does and stuff like that,” Walker said.
Walker said he has gotten help from the linebackers with whom he is competing for playing time.
“Even though were competing, the older dudes still help me,” he said. “With the playbook, whenever I need help with learning something and stuff like that. Even though we are competing, we’re still a family.”
The 6-foot-3, Walker is listed at 201 pounds in Kentucky’s media guide, but he said a summer of working with strength coach Corey Edmond has gotten him up to 213, and he hopes to add a few more pounds before the season starts.
“Just working with ‘coach Ed,’ … I’ve gotten a lot stronger,” he said.
Walker is long and athletic and big enough to be a physical presence as well. He said he expected to have a better idea of where he stands at a position where Kentucky has only one returning starter once practices in pads began this week.
“I guess that’ll determine what’s really going to happen,” he said. “(I’ll) just keep doing what I’m doing, working hard and learning the playbook, and try to be the best that I can be.”
Meanwhile, he’s enjoying his first summer in college football.
“It’s fun, being around the team, building friendships with everybody here, the freshmen and all the older dudes as well,” Walker said.