Parker ready to put questions to rest

by - Senior Writer -
As a true freshman in 2010, Parker played just 57 snaps and recorded seven tackles,

CLEMSON – The more that Clemson’s linebackers came under fire last season, the more the Clemson fans asked the same question: Where is Justin Parker?

Parker was the state’s top linebacker a season ago, and signed with the Tigers on national signing day with high hopes and expectations.

As a true freshman in 2010, however, he played just 57 snaps and recorded seven tackles, seeing most of his action on special teams. That scarcity of playing time led many to wonder whether Parker was as good as advertised.

As it turns out, he can be as good as advertised and promises that Clemson fans won’t be wondering where he is this fall.

Partially through spring practice, Parker is listed as the second-team strong-side linebacker behind Quandon Christian. The rising sophomore from Port Royal is also holding down the MACK position [middle] in the nickel package and pushing Corico Hawkins for time at middle linebacker in the base defense.

Parker said his quick ascent comes from film study.

“I got into the film room with a couple of other guys and studied by butt off during the offseason,” he said last week. “It’s showing out there on the field. Now, I’m starting to get the hang of it, learning what to do.”

Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Kevin Steele agreed with Parker’s assessment.

“He knows what to do,” Steele said. “It’s as simple as that. We knew he was a good player, a tough player, could run and that he had good instincts. He just didn’t know what to do, and the switch comes on at different times. He plays a hard position. He has to quarterback it in the nickel.”

Steele said that Parker’s increased study time has been evident during the early stages of spring practice.

“I don’t know what switch he flipped,” Steele said late last week. “But I’ve seen him do it before. He just knows. He doesn’t have mental errors. He doesn’t bust. He just knows.”

Parker said that spending last season as a reserve role didn’t hurt his development – in fact it helped it as he learned the basics of the same zone-blitz defense that led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl title this past season.

“I feel a lot more comfortable around some of the older guys, working with those guys,” Parker said. “It took a while getting the hang of it learning what to do.”

Parker was reminded that Clemson has a returning starter in Hawkins, and with the nation’s top linebacker prospect in Tony Steward arriving in the fall, the competition will be fierce.

No matter, Parker says.

“It doesn’t matter,” Parker said. “I’m just going to do what helps make the team win.”

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