Navaughn Donaldson learns to play everywhere on Miami O-line. ‘I’m versatile’
Issiah Walker Jr. won’t be at Paradise Camp on Saturday. Instead of attending the Miami Hurricanes’ signature recruiting event in Coral Gables, the Miami Norland offensive lineman will travel north a few states to camp with the South Carolina Gamecocks, the team he has been orally committed to for more than a year.
Still, Walker decided to make up for his impending absence Sunday. He has become a favorite of Butch Barry and the entire Miami coaching staff, and started to grow particularly fond of them, too. As well has he has gotten to know Barry, Walker still wanted a chance to actually work out with the offensive line coach.
“We did talk a lot before, it’s just I haven’t really gotten to work out with him before today,” Walker said Sunday. “So today was a great day.”
Walker came away impressed.
Barry, who spent four years as an assistant offensive line coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before he joined the Hurricanes in January, pulled three offensive linemen aside for closer instruction at the Manny Diaz Football Camp on Sunday at the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility. Two of those — Plantation American Heritage guard Khristopher Love and Killian tackle Lloyd Willis — are Class of 2020 prospects Miami continues to evaluate. The third was Walker, who currently sits atop the board for the Hurricanes at tackle.
The No. 149 overall prospect in the 247Sports.com composite rankings for the 2020 recruiting class, Walker is the top-ranked offensive lineman in Miami-Dade County and the highest-ranked tackle to come out of the county since Navaughn Donaldson signed with the Hurricanes in the Class of 2017. With his high school less than two miles away from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Walker sits in some of the Hurricanes’ most reliable recruiting territory. The four-star tackle grew up a Hurricanes fan, too, so there has been extensive mutual interest since the Hurricanes offered him a scholarship in January.
“It’s down the street, so if my family wants to go see me play it’s right down the street instead of having to drive all the way to South Carolina or something like that,” Walker said. “So that’s a very big factor for me.”
Barry is also becoming a major factor.
With his father watching nearby, Walker worked closely with Barry for more than an hour. The 6-4, 302-pound senior went through drills to test his flexibility and footwork, and worked on perfecting his punch. He had two big takeaways from the session: a two-kick step he worked on and a refined punching technique, both of which helped him go unbeaten in a one-on-one session to end the day.
“It’s a different level because he’s been in the NFL, so what he learned in the NFL he brought to college,” Walker said. “So that right there was big for me because everything he taught me I’ll use in the season. Everything.”
Throughout the camp, offensive coordinator Dan Enos stood on the sideline to evaluate the major target. At the end of the workout, coach Manny Diaz even came over to watch Walker work with Barry.
When most of the campers went out to a lunch break, Walker bounced around the indoor practice facility, chatting with every Miami coach he came across. It didn’t matter if the coach had nothing to do with Walker’s position or even his side of the ball — Walker is one of the Hurricanes’ most important targets in the 2020 recruiting cycle regardless of position.
It’s a collective effort from the Miami coaching staff to make Walker’s importance known. It isn’t lost on the All-American lineman.
“Basically all of the coaches, they always tell me I’m a priority for them on top of the board. They always tell me that,” Walker said. “Everybody. Every coach out there.”