Being the top defensive player in any class means that the recruit is expected to make an immediate impact. The expectation is that he makes life difficult for an offense and becomes one of the best players in the conference. That’s the fate that awaits Walter Nolen, a defensive lineman from St. Benedict in Tennessee.
Nolen is ranked as the number two player by 247sports and ESPN. Meanwhile, Rivals has him ranked number three. 247sports calls Nolen a “stoutly assembled defensive lineman with college-ready size.” The website also wrote that he’s “among the nation’s top defensive prospects in the 2022 class.”
Nolen has the size of a college defensive linemen, being listed at 6’4”, 300 pounds on 247sports. He has a top eight of Alabama, USC, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, and Florida. So what makes Nolen such a highly rated recruit?
Nolen has lined up on the tackle, guard, and center in high school. He is a versatile defensive lineman that can dominate no matter where he lines up. He is the strongest player on the field and uses that strength to get by offensive linemen consistently. Nolen also processes great speed for someone his size and will chase down running backs and quarterbacks. He takes double teams head-on and doesn’t let them stop him from making stops in the backfield.
Nolen’s skill is seen in the first play of his Junior highlights, where he takes on a double team and flies right past it. The tackle was beaten right away with a swim move while the guard couldn’t slow him down. The play ended with Nolen getting a sack. On the second play of the highlights, Nolen gets off his block and causes the running back to lose the football, which the defense recovered.
On the play that starts at 2:55, Nolen knocks the offensive linemen back into the running back and causes a negative play. The play after, he quickly moves from the left side of the line to the right to get the ball carrier down.
Just like many high school defensive linemen, Nolen tends to rely more on his physical gifts than technique. He’ll have to get used to using moves more often to take on college offensive linemen. There were times when he had problems finishing plays against Memphis University high school. He’ll have to improve on that, or else a negative play could turn into a big play for the offense.
So will Walter Nolen be a starter from day one once he gets to college? Well, that’s hard to say as normally linemen take a little longer to develop than other positions. However, with someone as good as Nolen, it may only be a matter of time before he starts.