53 days till Penn State soccer

(Photo: Harvey Levine-FOS/247, 247Sports)

Penn State aims to bounce back into Big Ten contention this fall following a 7-6 finish last season. The Nittany Lions fell from 5-0 in 2021, concluding with an Outback Bowl loss, but have since used the Transfer Portal and to top-10 recruiting class to retool the roster.

PSU opens its 2022 game schedule Sept. 1 at Purdue and, in the meantime, our Countdown to Kickoff series will feature players whose uniform numbers correspond with that number of days remaining until that matchup. We continue with #53. Since we just wrote a stand-alone feature on current PSU No. 53 Nick Dawkins, we’ll focus on the man who wore the number before Dawkins — offensive lineman Rashed Walker.

Rasheed Walker was considered a four-star recruit coming out of high school. He landed sixth among offensive tackles and 65th overall in 247Sports’ 2018 composite rankings.

Walker approached the 30-offer threshold, and the Nittany Lions didn’t hesitate to make him a target, offering halfway though his career at North Point (Waldorf, Md.) High School. He took his recruitment beyond college football’s inaugural December signing period and an appearance at the 2018 All-American Bowl, ultimately opting for Penn State over fellow finalists Ohio State and Virginia Tech in February 2018.

A two-time all-state selection at North Point, Walker also shined on the defensive line during his high school days (11 sacks as a senior). In terms of 247Sports evaluations, only Michal Menet and Landon Tengwall received higher ratings among offensive linemen who’ve signed with Penn State since James Franklin arrived in 2014.

Walker took advantage of the NCAA’s new redshirt rule in 2018, reaching his allotment of four game appearances at left tackle without burning a year of eligibility. He took part in Penn State’s final three matchups, including a Citrus Bowl showdown versus Kentucky.

Walker stepped up at left tackle throughout the 2019 and 2020 campaigns, starting all 22 Nittany Lions games. Following an impressively steady redshirt freshman effort, he earned third-team All-Big Ten recognition (media) and a conference honorable mention (coaches) in 2020. Although his athletic arsenal and extensive Big Ten experience create a compelling prospect package, Walker opted to pass on early NFL Draft entrance last winter, and continued work with second-year PSU offensive line coach Phil Trautwein was a key motivator.

“I can come back and invest more in myself by being coached by Coach Trautwein for another year to give myself a better shot at the next level,” Walker said in April. “The guy knows what he’s talking about. Him being a former NFL tackle, he sees things that not everyone sees. When I first started working with him, I thought I was pretty good. But as I was working with him more, he started to point out a bunch of things that I had to work on to be better.”

At team captain, Walker started the first 10 games of the 2021 campaign before missing the last two weeks of the regular season and then the Outback Bowl lost to Arkansas with an undisclosed leg injury. Despite having a year of eligibility remaining, Walker declared for the 2022 NFL Draft.

Unable to work out at the NFL Combine or Penn State’s Pro Day, his draft stock tumbled. Once considered a possible first-round pick, he was not taken until the seventh round (Green Bay Packers, No. 249 overall).

Walker signed a four-year, $3.74 million contract with the Packers. But only his signing bonus of $80,872 is guaranteed.

If he is finally healthy again, Walker should at the very least make Green Bay’s practice squad. But given the amount of time he missed due to the undisclosed injury — and the fact that most teams carry only between seven and nine offensive linemen on their 53-man rosters — earning playing time in the 2022 season will be an uphill battle.

The good news is Walker is still only 22 years old. And when healthy, he is viewed by many experts as a player with the size and quickness to develop into an NFL starter.

— Tyler Donohue contributed to this report

Review our previous Countdown to Kickoff profiles…

54Robert Windsor
55 – J. B. Nelson
56 – Amin Vanover
57 – Ibrahim Traore
58 – Landon Tengwall
59 – Aaron Maybin
60 – Matt Millen
61 – Stefen Wisniewski
62 – Michael Menet
63 – Joe Iorio
64 – Hunter Nourzad
65 – Miles Dieffenbach
66Drew Shelton
67Kareem McKenzie
68Mike Reid
69 – Floyd Wedderburn
70 – Juice Scruggs

71 Will Fries
72Bryce Effner
73 – Maleek McNeill
74 – Olu Fashanu
75Eric Shrive
76 Steve Smear
77 – Salt Wormley
78 – Golden Israel-Achumba
79 – Caedan Wallace
80 Malick Meiga
81Kyle Brady
82 Liam Clifford
83 – Joe Jurevicius
84 – Theo Johnson
85 – Harrison Wallace
86 – Brenton Strange
87 – Pat Freiermuth
88 – Jerry Cross
89 – Dave Robinson
90Rodney McGraw
91 – D’Von Ellies
92Jake Pinegar and Smith Vilbert
93 – Brandon Noble
94 – Sander Sahaydak
95 – Carl Nassib
96 Immanuel Iyke
97 – P. J. Mustipher
98 – Jordan Stout
99 – Coziah Izzard

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