New Wide Receivers Coach Gerad Parker Brings Experience, Penn State Connections To Happy Valley
From a story of a recruiting encounter with Tommy Stevens and James Franklin to comparing catching passes to Stephen Curry’s three-point shooting, newly-hired wide receivers coach Gerad Parker’s first meeting with the media was full of interesting takeaways and tidbits.
Parker, most recently the wide receivers coach at Duke, was hired in early January after a year full of drops and the firing of David Corley following the Citrus Bowl.
Naturally, Parker was asked about Penn State’s drop problem last season. Players like Juwan Johnson and Brandon Polk struggled to corral passes at times last season, leading to plenty of frustration from fans. He played wide receiver in college, so he shared some insight into how he’ll go about eradicating Penn State’s drop problem.
“I think you approach catching the football just like Steph Curry approaches shooting a three. Steph Curry couldn’t care less whether he misses,” Parker said. “You can’t focus and have this belief of failure every time the ball comes. If not, it becomes this epidemic, and maybe that’s what happened [last year] in some ways. This thing kind of just turned into this monster that you can’t really stop.”
He said he’ll try to get the wide receivers’ confidence and trust quickly by using “mental wiring.” In other words, he wants to make the receivers visualize the positive outcome whenever the ball is thrown in their direction during games.
Parker later shared the story of his recruitment of Tommy Stevens, the Nittany Lions’ current No. 1 quarterback, when he was a member of Purdue’s coaching staff.
The new wide receivers coach recalled being relegated from an eager recruiter to substitute teacher when visiting Stevens in high school. The quarterback was in a class taught by Justin Dixson, his high school head coach, when Parker popped his head in to check on him.
Dixson had to leave the class to greet another guest at the door, leaving Parker to watch the rest of the students in the class. That created a moment he won’t soon forget.
“So another girl in that class at the time walks up to me and asks if she can go to the restroom, as if I were the substitute teacher,” Parker recalled. “I became the sub pretty quickly because [James] Franklin came in.”
Although that girl may have thought he was a substitute teacher, Parker was once in charge of a Big Ten program. His tenure as Purdue’s interim head coach was another reason why Franklin was so eager to bring him in.
“I thought the Purdue experience is important, and I think it’s a unique experience,” Franklin said. “As an assistant coach, everybody kind of sits there and thinks they understand what it’s like to be the head coach until you’re actually sitting in the chair.”
Parker is well aware of how young Penn State’s receiving corps is, and he’s excited to work with guys like KJ Hamler, Justin Shorter, and Jahan Dotson. However, he did address some concern about the potential lack of veteran leadership he’ll work with next season. With Brandon Polk, Juwan Johnson, and Cam Sullivan-Brown all in the transfer portal, the team’s two oldest wideouts — Hamler and Mac Hippenhammer — are redshirt sophomores.
According to James Franklin, Parker took command of the room and “crushed” it during the interview process. The new wide receivers coach also worked with JaJuan Seider at Marshall in 2011 and 2012, which helped Franklin make the decision to bring him to Happy Valley.
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