New WRs coach catches up
Plans to solve why drops nagged PSU
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Gerad Parker has been on Penn State’s payroll for nearly a month and hasn’t had trouble keeping busy since he arrived in central Pennsylvania.
Most of his time and energy in the past few weeks has gone into recruiting, as the Nittany Lions tried to pick up the final few members of their Class of 2019.
But with that task largely behind him, although coach James Franklin wouldn’t rule out adding another player or two, Parker can turn his attention to other matters.
Like learning his way around State College. Getting to know the players he’ll be dealing with in his role as receivers coach.
And studying the 2018 game films that will illustrate why his predecessor, David Corley, lost his job.
Which seems to be mostly because veteran and
accomplished receivers such as Juwan Johnson, DeAndre Thompkins and Brandon Polk — none of whom will be in the program next season — were routinely unable to hold on to Trace McSorley passes that struck them squarely in the hands.
“We didn’t make the plays that we’d been making and we dropped too many balls, and there’s a lot of factors that go into that,” Franklin said. “There’s not one responsibility or answer for that. There’s a number of them.
“I’m looking at it as a great opportunity. I know [Parker is] looking at it as a great opportunity. We’ve got some talented guys that we’re excited to see what they’re going to be able to do.”
Corley, initially brought in a year ago as running backs coach, had his job description altered after the Nittany Lions hired Ja’Juan Seider and put him in charge of the backs.
How culpable Corley is for the receivers’ recurring problem with drops is open to debate — younger players such as K.J. Hamler and Jahan Dotson didn’t have trouble with them — but he was the one who paid for them with his job.
Parker, coming off a two-year stint at Duke, is keenly aware of that and suggested that convincing his receivers to not worry about dropping passes is the best way to minimize the number of times it happens.
“I’m aware of why I’m here,” he said. “I think that you approach catching the football just like Steph Curry approaches [a 3-point shot]. Steph Curry could care less whether he misses.
“You can’t focus and have this belief of failure every time the ball comes. And if not, it becomes this epidemic. And maybe that’s what happened in some ways, this thing that kind of just turns into this monster that you can’t really stop.”
Parker will oversee a stable of thoroughbred receivers that is, for the most part, short on experience but long on potential. Only four of the eight scholarship players there have exhausted a year of eligibility, but that area of the Nittany Lions’ depth chart is laden with four- and five-star prospects who could develop into legitimate difference-makers.
“I’ve never been around a room that young,” Parker said. “It is exciting and challenging. Of course, would you rather walk into a senior-ridden room and a proven room and all those things? Yeah. Anybody who says [otherwise] would be lying. But it is a challenge. You kind of like the youth that this room [has] that has also bonded with talent. It’s a youthful room — which is always tricky to find leadership in a youthful room — but also it’s very gifted.
“If we can structure it to find leadership within it and make it what it needs to be from a talent, fundamental issue and go, I think it allows us to kind of be able to preach that the sky’s the limit.”
Gerad Parker Spent the past two years at Duke and was at Purdue for three seasons before that