RENTON — Ken Walker III wasn’t asked to do much in his first day in his new No. 9 Seahawks uniform. For that matter, the Seahawks didn’t ask much of any of the newcomers participating in the team’s three-day rookie minicamp that began Friday afternoon at the VMAC.
But coach Pete Carroll left open the possibility that that could change come this fall, when this rookie class could be asked to plug some important holes in the Seahawks’ depth chart.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see some guys have a shot at pushing for a lot of playing time out of this class,” Carroll said. “… It seems really specific (to the team’s position needs) and we can all kind of visualize how that’s going to happen.”
Charles Cross and Abe Lucas, the two new offensive tackles, will compete for a chance to start immediately. And Walker ought to be a key figure in a revamped offense in this post-Russell Wilson era. As the second running back taken in the NFL draft last week (No. 41 overall), Walker could emerge as the No. 2 running back in the Seahawks offense behind Rashaad Penny.
Walker made a good impression, anyway, in the light, 45-minute workout Friday. During one passing drill, he made a nice adjustment on his route and used one hand to haul in a wayward pass from undrafted rookie QB Levi Lewis.
“Ken, he took off now,” Carroll said. “He’s a rocket. He caught the ball really well today, too, which we’re really excited about.”
Walker said he prefers to go by Ken (he was listed as Kenneth when he was drafted). The 21-year-old Arlington, Tennessee, native is listed at 5-foot-9, 211 pounds on the Seahawks roster, and he had no complaints about his first day on the job.
“I gotta say it was more excitement, you know, being around the guys,” said Walker, who ran for 1,636 yards in 12 games last year for Michigan State and won the Doak Walker Award as college football’s best running back. “It made it much easier for me to just come and be who I am.”
Running back is generally seen as a plug-and-play position for rookies, and it’s reasonable to expect one as accomplished as Walker to make a relatively smooth transition to the NFL.
Walker said it helps, too, that Michigan State ran a pro-style offense.
“That was a big thing for me like when I went to Michigan State I wanted to get in that pro-style offense,” he said. “And, you know, when I was at Michigan State, it made a difference because we were able to watch them on NFL teams. And it was just like our offense, just different terminology.”
Carroll said that has been apparent.
“Coming to us, he even understood the terminology to some extent, too, so it’s really going to facilitate him being comfortable with the transition,” Carroll said. “So we’ll expect no issues there at all. He’ll be able to ‘go.’ He’s very bursty, very quick.”
Walker, for now, does not project as a third-down back. He wasn’t much of a factor catching the ball out of the backfield at Michigan State last season, posting 13 catches for 89 yards and one touchdown.
More importantly, Carroll said Walker has a lot to learn about pass protection, which has to be the top priority for any running back coming in on third down.
“Let’s wait and see on that one, as far as making him a third-down guy,” Carroll said. “He’s got a ways to go, pass protection-wise. That’s a real challenge for him. So we’ll see. I know his attitude will be in it. He’s a terrific, competitive kid. That (pass protection) needs to be a priority, and we’ve already talked to him about that.”