Blue Springs’ Parker goes from Mizzou defensive end to blocking phenom
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:
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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.”
Daniel Parker, right, who played in high school at Blue Springs, is showing his versatility as a freshman for Mizzou.