Double Duty Doesn't Faze Parker

April 24, 2013

Spring Practice No. 13 Photo Gallery

IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker didn’t give it a second thought when given the opportunity to pull double duty as the Hawkeyes’ secondary coach in 2013.

“There was no hesitation for me to go back,” Parker said Wednesday during a news conference inside the Hayden Fry Football Complex. “The year before when (I was defensive coordinator only), and I wasn’t actually in the meetings, you kind of miss it. I was looking for the opportunity to come back, so I was pleased to get back there.”

During Parker’s first 13 years on UI head coach Kirk Ferentz’s staff, he was the secondary coach. The 2012 season was Parker’s first as defensive coordinator.

“I’ve been in the secondary for a long time, so it’s easy for me to walk in a room and get guys to understand what I need from them,” said Parker. “That hasn’t changed for me. It gets me in touch with the guys more.”

Heading into the 2013 season, Parker says he needs the secondary to contest balls and give consistent effort. That’s his charge for returning starters Tanner Miller, Nico Law, and B.J. Lowery.

“I don’t mind guys getting beat if the plays are contested,” he said. “You look at how many big plays we gave up (last year), compared to the year before and years past, and they’re very similar numbers. Some of them are a little bit too uncontested for running free.”

“I’ve been in the secondary for a long time, so it’s easy for me to walk in a room and get guys to understand what I need from them. That hasn’t changed for me. It gets me in touch with the guys more.”
UI defensive coordinator/secondary coach Phil Parker

Parker says Miller has emerged as a leader in the secondary, while Lowery is competing at the highest level of his career.

“Tanner has done a better job of staying focused, trying to be a leader back in the secondary, along with B.J.,” said Parker. “B.J. is playing at his highest level he has right now. He has been making good progress. They all have been working together and are starting to form a good unit.”

For a defense that relies on its front four to provide pressure on the quarterback, Parker believes the pieces are coming together for the team up front, but remains a work in progress.

Junior tackle Carl Davis and freshman tackle/end Faith Ekakitie are two of the Hawkeyes making a name for themselves in spring practice. Davis played in 11 games, tallying 14 tackles, including 1.5 for loss a season ago, while Ekakitie redshirted in 2012 after joining the program as a highly-touted recruit.

“Carl is a 315-pound, very good athlete that can move,” said Parker. “He enjoys football a little bit (now) and enjoys coming out to practice. That’s helping with his progress, and we’re very happy with him.”

Ekakitie is one of three redshirt freshman on the two-deeps along with defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson and defensive end Daumantas Venckus-Cucchiara. Ekakitie reminds the coaching staff of former Hawkeye and current Minnesota Viking defensive lineman Christian Ballard because of his versatility to play both inside and outside.

“Faith is probably the most intriguing guy,” said Parker. “We’re impressed with the way he can run and move. We’re intrigued by putting him out on the edge. Jaleel is a strong, big kid, who is hard to move.

“(The freshmen are) still a ways away; they’re still young pups. They’re definitely going to have to help us out this year.”

With three senior linebackers — James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey — back to anchor the defense, Parker says Iowa could draw more pressure to help the defensive front.

“We might have to create situations a little bit more to help them out, maybe add some guys to the rush a little bit,” he said. “My biggest thing is to try not to give up big plays. The game is still about scoring and not giving up points. That’s the most important thing.

“The last two years, we gave up 24 (points per game in 2011), and last year 23 (in 2012). My main concern is points.”

Iowa will hold its annual open spring practice Saturday, present by Coke Zero. Gates to Kinnick Stadium open at 1 p.m. (CT), with drills and scrimmage beginning at 2. There is no admission charge, but fans are invited to contribute non-perishable food items. The first 5,000 fans who make a donation will receive a souvenir ANF “Farm Strong” poster featuring Casey Wiegmann.