Blue Springs’ Parker goes from Miz­zou de­fen­sive end to block­ing phe­nom

The Kansas City Star - - Sports - BY ALEX SCHIFFER as­chif­fer@kc­star.com

Drew Lock couldn’t be­lieve it. With Mis­souri fac­ing sec­ond and five early in the fourth quar­ter of Sat­ur­day’s up­set of No. 13 Florida, the quar­ter­back looked right and saw Daniel Parker ready to catch a pass.

Lock was sure of his read, but he was unaware of the per­son­nel Mis­souri had in the game. Star tight end Al­bert Ok­weug­bunam was out with a shoul­der in­jury and backup Ken­dall Blan­ton didn’t even make the trip with a knee sprain. Parker, the for­mer de­fen­sive end from Blue Springs, was ap­par­ently his tar­get.

He re­mem­bers think­ing, “Oh my, I’m throw­ing it to Daniel.”

Lock de­liv­ered Parker a low ball, but the 6-foot-4 tight end came up with the pass and man­aged to pick up three yards for MU. The quar­ter­back said that if he was told early in the sea­son that his two tight ends would be con­verted line­men, he wouldn’t have bet a dol­lar on it.

The catch com­pleted a ca­reer day for the true fresh­man Parker, who had his best game since switch­ing to of­fense dur­ing fall camp. Along with haul­ing in his first ca­reer catch, his block­ing paved the way for touch­downs by Mis­souri tail­backs Larry Roun­tree and Da­marea Crock­ett. The two MU run­ning backs fol­lowed Parker through gi­gan­tic holes he cre­ated by eat­ing up Florida de­fend­ers.

Kansas, which fired head coach David Beaty early this week, has strug­gled most against teams that have good pass­ing games and strong run de­fenses, and if we’re be­ing hon­est, K-State has nei­ther of those.

Here are two view­points on the 11 a.m. Sat­ur­day game fea­tur­ing the state’s two Divi­sion I foot­ball pro­grams:

FROM THE KU SIDE­LINE ...

The Jay­hawks should find some open­ings with tail­backs Pooka Wil­liams and Khalil Herbert, and also shouldn’t face nearly the fear of get­ting beaten

Suf­fice to say that Parker is not go­ing back to de­fense any­time soon.

With Ok­weug­bunam’s sta­tus for Sat­ur­day’s game against Van­der­bilt un­known and Blan­ton weekto-week, he will con­tinue to re­ceive play­ing time at tight end, start­ing Sat­ur­day against Van­der­bilt.

Be­sides Parker, the Tigers’ other avail­able tight end is se­nior Sam Bai­ley, a 6-foot-5, 295 pound for­mer of­fen­sive line­man.

“Right now our start­ing tight ends are a D-line­man and an O-line­man,” of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Derek Doo­ley said. “I’m sure the coaches at Van­der­bilt are not wor­ried about the ver­ti­cal threat, but maybe we’ll shock them.”

Af­ter all, Bai­ley did catch a 21-yard pass at South Carolina ear­lier this sea­son to set up a touch­down.

When Mis­souri lost fresh­man tight end Mes­siah Swin­son to an ACL tear dur­ing fall camp, the coach­ing staff started to look for op­tions to give the po­si­tion more depth be­hind Ok­wueg­bunam and Blan­ton. Parker was a stand­out of­fen­sive line­man at Blue Springs High, and Bai­ley played some tight end at La­mar High.

De­fen­sive line coach Brick Ha­ley and spe­cial teams co­or­di­na­tor Andy Hill, Parker’s lead re­cruiter, told Parker he would get more im­me­di­ate play­ing time at tight end, so the fresh­man agreed to a po­si­tion change dur­ing train­ing camp.

Parker cre­ated Mis­souri’s first touch­down last Sat­ur­day, a 27-yard run by Roun­tree, by mov­ing his man to open up a wide hole for Roun­tree to score un­touched. With MU lead­ing 14-3 in the sec­ond quar­ter, he blocked for Crock­ett on an op­tion play and con­tin­ued to shove his man into Florida’s cheer­lead­ing squad. Doo­ley called Parker “a phe­nom block­ing.”

And then Parker topped it all off with his three­yard catch.

Parker said it was the first time he had caught a pass since his fresh­man year at Blue Springs — and even that one was an in­ter­cep­tion that he snagged as an out­side linebacker. He’s joked that he has the best hands in the con­fer­ence, but only when it comes to block­ing, not catch­ing.

When Parker ar­rived on cam­pus as one of Mis­souri’s few in-state pledges from a loaded lo­cal THE DE­TAILS 5 THINGS TO KNOW class, Odom said Parker’s mind was con­sis­tently los­ing fo­cus — he’d talk half­heart­edly about his de­sire to play bas­ket­ball and throw the dis­cus for MU’s track team.

But as Parker re­al­ized his value to the team, that fo­cus sharp­ened.

“He’s grown up in un­der­stand­ing what his role is,” Odom said.

“He’s jumped in with both feet. He’s never ques­tioned it, never asked, any­thing to help our team. Can’t get enough guys like (Parker and Bai­ley). Their ap­proach is some­thing I will teach mov­ing for­ward.”

SU­SAN PFANNMULLER Spe­cial to the Star

Daniel Parker, right, who played in high school at Blue Springs, is show­ing his ver­sa­til­ity as a fresh­man for Miz­zou.

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