Chad Walker had been in his role at Oklahoma only a short time before defensive coordinator Mike Stoops realized just how valuable his new quality control coach would be.
During discussions about defensive philosophy — the Sooners were installing a new base 3-4 defense — and how to combat certain offensive looks, Walker would regularly bust out a notebook he’d filled with bits of information through the years.
During a telephone interview with SEC Country, Stoops chuckled when he remembered Walker’s old notebook.
“He’s just a guy who always had answers to questions,” Stoops said.
That comes from his experience working in a variety of different settings. He was a quality control guy at LSU under Nick Saban, then followed Saban to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Then he worked as a small-college defensive coordinator at Bryant University and Mississippi College before joining the Oklahoma staff for two years. He just wrapped up a two-year stint with the Atlanta Falcons — who are fresh off a Super Bowl appearance — and was hired earlier this month as Arkansas’ new outside linebackers coach.
“He’s seen a lot of ways to shoe a horse,” Stoops said.
‘He has all the qualities you’d want’
Marty Fine spent 13 seasons as head coach at Bryant — a small, academically prestigious university in Smithfield, R.I. — and because of his connections in the coaching world, was a frequent guest of Saban’s when he coached the Miami Dolphins from 2005-06.
He remembers watching Walker work with NFL players and being impressed with his knowledge and ability to get through to the highly-paid professionals. At the time, Walker was working alongside defensive line coach Dan Quinn.
“I got to watch him work and spend time with him,” Fine said in a telephone interview. “When I had a chance to hire him, it was a no-brainer. He has all the qualities you’d want.”
Fine hired Walker to coach Bryant defensive backs in 2008 and 2009, then promoted him to defensive coordinator in 2010.
Walker left Bryant to become defensive coordinator at Mississippi College for two seasons before taking the Oklahoma job, where he worked in an off-the-field role helping the Sooners implement a 3-4 defense.
“We analyzed things together,” Stoops said. “I’d throw different things at him. He was a big-picture guy. He has a big-picture mentality. He was able to project well, look beyond what we were doing in any particular moment.”
Many different experiences
After two seasons at Oklahoma, Walker left to become a defensive assistant with the Atlanta Falcons, where he was reunited with Quinn, now the Falcons’ head coach.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema hired Walker a few days after he coached in the Super Bowl. In Fayetteville, Walker will be part of another staff implementing the 3-4.
“He’s been around us and knows this system inside and out,” Stoops said.
Walker’s vast, varied experiences will serve him well.
“I watched him coach NFL guys that were making $17 million and Chad was able to get to them and get them to do the things they needed to do,” Fine said. “Then he went out and recruited 17-year olds from high-end academics (at Bryant).
“He has the ability to relate to people. To be a really good football coach, if you can teach all the different kinds of people you come into contact with, you can go coach at any level.
“Chad will be a very successful coach for a very long time.”