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Shrine Bowl Preview: Mykal Walker

The Fresno State star gets his chance to show off for NFL scouts and coaches

NCAA Football: Mountain West Championship-Fresno State at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

After finishing a highly successful career with the Bulldogs, that included the 2018 MWC Championship Defensive MVP, it is now time for Mykal Walker to move on to the NFL. His journey will begin with a trip to the East/West Shrine Bowl, which has long been a venue for players from smaller schools to get a chance to showcase their talents for NFL scouts and coaches. Let’s take a quick look at what the coaches will see when observing Walker.

First thing they’ll see is his versatility. He spent his first season with the Bulldogs lining up at Defensive End, where he was able to wreak havoc in both the passing and running game. He was able to log 14 TFLs including 4.5 sacks in 2018, as well as a pick-six and two fumble recoveries. Now, he’s not what a team would call prototypical DE size, but he was able to use his speed and agility to get around blocks off the edge. He was also able to contribute on special teams, blocking a FG attempt against Idaho that Jaron Bryant returned for a touchdown, and a punt against UNLV.

In 2019, Walker moved back to his natural position as linebacker. If Walker gets drafted, which he should, he will definitely have a better fit at linebacker than at defensive end. He was just moved there in 2018 out of necessity due to injury, and a glut of linebackers already with starting experience. I’m not exactly sure how scouts will view him only having one real year of linebacker film, but they should see his ability to play multiple positions as a positive instead of a negative. If there are some negatives to his game, it would be that he needs to improve in the running game as a linebacker. There was multiple times in 2019 where he seemed late to contact with a running back, allowing for a couple of extra yards on the ground. That’s something that should improve more as he gets more experience back in his natural position, and that field vision can improve. And that definitely could be attributed to the rather porous defense of the 2019 Bulldog squad putting extra strain on the middle 3. He did make first team All-MWC in both 2018 and 2019, along with that MVP trophy in 2018, so he is a successful defender for the Bulldogs.

For the upcoming Shrine Bowl, I think scouts will just want to see him against top-level competition. One of the drawbacks of life in the Group of 5 is that your competition isn’t seen as strongly as those in the Power 5, so scouts will often reserve judgement on players until they see them against SEC or B1G players. I believe though that Walker can use his mix of size, speed, and agility to show what an asset he is, and secure himself a Day 3 draft position.