This time last year, Joe Walker was fighting to win the eyes of new Head Coach Danny Rocco and earn the Delaware starting quarterback job.
Twelve months later, Walker is ready to thrive, at wide receiver.
(VIDEO: Walker, Rocco, and Reeder on Joe's transition to WR)
Walker would win the starting QB job, only to lose it to J.P. Caruso, but instead of sulking, he was asked if he would be willing to switch to receiver, and the early returns were promising.
The newly-minted captain caught 6 passes for 152 yards as a wideout, but he’s still looking for that elusive first touchdown.
At CAA Media Day Tuesday, Walker said he’s embraced his new role.
“I like it a lot. Whatever I’m doing, I buy into it and give it all. As for me being a receiver now, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made to do what I can to contribute to the team. It’s great to be able to train with the guys, I can’t wait to get started.”
In spring football, Delaware will occasionally pit the top units from both sides of the football against each other, meaning the offense has to go against one of the Top 10 defenses in the country.
Linebacker Troy Reeder leads that unit, and said after going against Walker, there’s lots of reasons for confidence.
“When you think about it, it’s incredible that somebody can play quarterback for 10 years and then go out and just be one of the top receivers in our conference with no formal training. He’s a smart kid, and knew the playbook so well from being a quarterback. Just what he did last year running routes as a raw receiver, it was one of the most impressive things in our conference.
“He’s all of 6’3”, he’s fast, strong, can jump high, he’s well-coordinated, can move in space, he’s the full package. The one thing guys have over him is experience, but he’s been working his butt off this off-season refining that skill set, learning route running and catching a ton of balls. I’m really excited to see him play that position this season.”
Coach Rocco also can be added to that list, as he sees the idea of his veteran coaching staff begin to take shape.
“I said early on, he really is a good an athlete as there is in this league. Some of the things he’s been able to do over the years from the quarterback position have been rare. I do think having played quarterback, he’s had a really smooth transition in understanding the routes in the passing game and the timing. What you’re really seeing now is his ability to use his big athletic, strong body to make plays on the ball.”
There’s still the matter of playing wide receiver, and Walker said there have been challenges in switching his position.
“There’s a physical difference and a mental difference. Physical, you’re trying to get faster, but you’re also trying to get toned. At quarterback, you’re just trying to be a great student to the game. There’s different things you need to know, you need to know advantages, and beat whatever is in front of you.
“The most difficult part is to run as fast as you can and stop on a dime. Once you figure that out, you’re able to be good at what you want to do.”
Walker’s leadership in being willing to change his role could be important for a team that finished 7-4 last year, and had a bittersweet taste left in their mouth as they feel they were snubbed by the NCAA Tournament Committee.
“When our name didn’t get called, that was heartbreaker. We don’t want to have that feeling again. We want to be that Delaware team that the tradition that everyone talks about comes back.”
Walker’s ability to run, catch, and throw could lead to big things for Delaware, especially when you consider former Indian River QB Jamie Jarmon could be on the opposite receiver position, meaning Delaware could have three potential throwers on the field for each play.
Maybe Walker hasn’t thrown his last touchdown pass, but he’s ready to catch on for whoever wins the Blue Hens’ quarterback job.