WALDORF, Md. — Penn State coach James Franklin voiced a desire for an increased level of “nastiness” across the Nittany Lions offensive line late in the 2017 season. The unit finished with an impressive Fiesta Bowl performance and should benefit this season from continued player development, along with quality additions.
Rasheed Walker, a senior at North Point (Waldorf, Md.) High School, is among the headliners in Penn State’s lauded 2018 recruiting class. A 6-foot-6 prospect who weighs approximately 295 pounds, he selected Penn State over Ohio State and Virginia Tech on National Signing Day.
Considered the No. 6 tackle and No. 65 overall recruit in the 247Sports 2018 composite rankings, Walker provides a presence that’s precisely what Franklin aims to emphasize.
“He’s got the length, he’s got the athleticism, he’s a great kid from a great family, is a gentleman off the field but plays with a nasty streak on the field,” Franklin said on Signing Day. “[Walker] has a finisher’s mentality.”
Land of 10 visited with Walker at North Point on Tuesday, and this aspect of his attitude became apparent during discussions.
“If I have a job, I’ve got to finish the job,” Walker explained. “When I’m blocking someone, there’s no letting up.”
The U.S. Army All-American, who joins the Nittany Lions in June, spent much of his prep career pushing opponents toward turf. Walker, a congenial and relatively soft-spoken student-athlete, becomes a bully between the whistles.
“It’s almost like split personality,” North Point coach Tom Petre said. “You sit down with him here, you talk with him, and he’s the nicest kid ever. When it comes time to compete, that’s when the nasty comes out.”
And that’s when the pancakes pile up.
“Rasheed crosses the line and he’s looking to finish people,” Petre said. “It’s not in a dirty way or a malicious way — he’s looking to put hands on you and take control with great technique. You watch his film, and he’s chasing guys all over the field.”
Walker dominated on both sides of the ball for the Eagles, earning all-conference honors as a defensive and offensive lineman — twice.
“You watch his high school tape and you say to yourself, ‘Hey, this guy could possibly play defensive line for us,’ ” Franklin said.
Walker collected 98 tackles and 15 sacks as an upperclassman, including 11 last season. He secured 7 sacks during a four-game stretch that extended into November, when North Point reached Maryland’s Class 4A state semifinal round.
“Rasheed was probably our best defensive player these past couple of years because of what he can do inside,” Petre said.
His focus will shift entirely toward tackle responsibilities at Penn State, and Walker understands what a rise up the depth chart requires. The Nittany Lions return four starters along the offensive front, feature a few promising redshirt freshmen and signed three other linemen this winter.
“[I’m] coming in with the mentality that I’ve got to actually take and earn the [opportunity] to be playing on the field early as a freshman or as soon as possible. Just competing,” he said.
Based on what Petre has witnessed these last four years, motivation won’t be an issue.
“It’s his relentless effort,” he said. “You’re talking about a kid who played upward of 120 plays per game and never wanted to leave the field regardless. If Rasheed came out, he wanted to know why and he wanted to know when he was going back in.”
Walker compares himself to longtime Washington Redskins tackle Trent Williams, the No. 4 overall NFL draft pick in 2010. His reasoning shouldn’t surprise anyone.
“When he blocks, he gets ruthless, he gets nasty,” Walker said. “He basically flips a switch, and that’s how I play.”
Watch our Tuesday conversation with Walker here: