Former team awaits Vanderbilt assistant Charles Walker
Massachusetts' Charles Walker (11) spoils an attempted throw by Rhode Island quarterback Derek Cassidy in the first half of a college football game in Amherst, Mass., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2006. Massachusetts won, 41-16. (AP Photo/Nancy Palmieri) Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — It’s been an odd few days for Charles Walker.
Most weeks the former University of Massachusetts all-conference linebacker roots for his alma mater.
But this week Walker, a defensive quality control assistant at Vanderbilt, will be helping create a game plan to beat his former team, which travels to Nashville, Tenn., to face the Commodores, Saturday at 7 p.m.
“It’s going to be so weird Saturday,” Walker said chuckling. “It’s been weird all week looking at them on film trying to flip my lens actually being a UMass enemy for the first time in my life. It’s been a little bit odd.”
After graduating from UMass in 2008, Walker spent four years as a graduate assistant at Nichols College, where he earned his master’s degree before being hired at Vanderbilt.
“I consider myself lucky every day,” Walker said. “I went from Division III to the SEC. That doesn’t happen every day in coaching.”
A quality control assistant is similar to a graduate assistant who isn’t taking classes. It’s a common entry level position for coaches breaking into Division I.
“We do pretty much all the film breakdown, all the prep work, all the behind the scenes work before the coaches get into the office, to get them ready to do their mad scientist thing with the game plan,” said Walker, 27. “There’s a lot of experience on this staff and it’s young experience so there’s a lot of energy. I love to come to work every day. It’s been the most fun time I’ve had in coaching being on this Vanderbilt staff. It’s been one of the best times of my life. Seeing all the time and dedication coaches put into it. ... I thought I put a lot of time and hard work into playing, but it’s not nearly as much as preparing the athletes and players to go out and play the game. I have a different perspective now.”
Walker has been keeping track of the Minutemen.
“I haven’t got a chance to meet Coach Molnar yet and I’m excited to do that this weekend. I’m hoping to steal two minutes from him after the game,” Walker said. “I have been watching from afar. I wish they were doing a little bit better, but with transition, it seems like a lot of their struggles are on offense. I think they have a really good scheme once Coach Molnar gets his type of guys in there I think they’ll be a force to reckon with in the MAC conference.”
Walker is one of three Vandy coaches with UMass ties. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop was on Don Brown’s staff in 2006. Defensive line coach Sean Spencer had the same title at UMass in 2001-03 and again in 2007-08.
“Spence actually recruited me out of high school,” Walker said. “He reminds me of that everyday. He hasn’t changed a bit. He’s like a family member of mine. I love him to death.”
Quite a few of Walker’s former teammates are moving their way up the coaching ladder. Neal Brown is the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech, while Malik Hall is the defensive coordinator at Wagner. Alex Miller (offensive line) and Liam Coen (quarterbacks) are position coaches at New Hampshire and Brown, respectively.
“Obviously I’d like to move on and coach my own position. If that opportunity comes along I’m sure (Vanderbilt Head) Coach (James) Franklin would give me his blessing,” Walker said. “If not, being here is great.”
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.