Here’s what all the involved parties had to say after Monday’s practice when redshirt freshman Kyle Parker was tabbed the starter over redshirt sophomore Willy Korn for the Sept. 5 opener against Middle Tennessee:
I met with all the quarterbacks last night … based on where we are right now, there has been some separation between Kyle and Willy. And so, at this point, we felt it was important for us to start building that continuity that we need. Center-quarterback exchange, procedures, things like that.
So we named Kyle Parker the starter last night. And of course he’s excited about that. Met with Willy and had a great meeting. It’s very important that everybody understands how hard this young man has worked. He’s worked his tail off from this spring and through the summer to have the opportunity to compete. Nobody’s worked harder than Willy Korn, that’s for sure. Really appreciate how he handled a difficult thing.
The thing I assured Willy is he deserves to play. And that he will have the opportunity to play. My plan is to play him every game and allow him to compete.
You know, it’s not a situation where Kyle is looking over his shoulder. He’s the starter. And it’s very clear at this point he’s the starter.
But at the same time, I think Willy brings some unique intangibles to the quarterback situation, and the bottom line is he deserves the opportunity to play. I think that was the biggest thing with Willy, that he knows mentally he will have the chance to compete.
As I told both of those guys – and had it been Willy named the starter, I would have felt the same way for Kyle – this is a situation where we’re making a decision, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a final decision forever. You have to go compete and be productive, that’s the bottom line. But we have to start honing in now on who we’re coaching, who we’re investing our time into coaching, and getting ready to play. I do think it will help us from a continuity standpoint.
If it was real, real, real close, we wouldn’t be doing this right now. But there is some separation, so we felt it was the right time to go ahead and start getting Kyle the first-team reps and let’s get Willy the second-team reps and let’s get ready to play.
As we all know in college football, anything can happen at any time. I don’t think Willy Korn is going to stop competing for any stretch of the imagination. So I like our situation there.
Q: When did you know for sure Parker was the guy?
A: Probably the last week or so, that there was some separation. But again, really glad I didn’t make a decision earlier because I thought Willy Korn had a great week of practice last week and has improved his game big-time from where he was in the spring. But Kyle has too.
This has been a decision where we’ve put a lot of eyes on this thing and have charted everything from spring ball all the way to now. Right now, Kyle Parker just gives the best chance to win and the most explosive player at that position.
Q: So you didn’t have a specific timetable you planned to make this decision?
A: No, no, never had that. In fact, coming into this fall camp, I didn’t know when it would be.
But it’s one of those things, when the apple’s ripe, you pick it. It was obvious to us as a coaching staff there was separation, and that’s what we needed to do.
Q: Why did you feel compelled to assure Korn of playing time?
A: Because we have no experience at quarterback, number one. Zero. And he deserves to play. That’s the bottom line. You have starters at a lot of positions that are clearly the starter, but that doesn’t mean the backup doesn’t deserve to play. Heck, I wasn’t a starter, but I deserved to play and had a role. I think that’s the same thing at every position.
As I’ve said many times, I didn’t know if it was going to be clear cut. And it if wasn’t, they’d both play.
Q: Does this announcement change anything for you?
A: Yeah, a little bit. I feel a little bit less pressure and can focus now toward the games and not have to worry about winning in practice every day. I’m excited and looking forward to the next step.
Q: How were you informed?
A: Coach Swinney pulled me and Willy and Mike and Tajh in and told us what was going on. I was relieved, but coming out today, it was going back to work. I don’t think I’ve really accomplished anything yet. It’s great, and I’m blessed to have this opportunity, but I still have to perform on the field.
Q: Does it change your mindset now that you’re “the guy?”
A: It really doesn’t. I still have to come out every day and get better, work on the little things. I’m still going to come out here and work hard and prepare just as hard as I was.
Q: What did coach Swinney say he based the decision on?
A: He liked how I was picking up the offense and making plays and stuff along that line. He just thought it was best for the team. And I agreed with him.
Q: Rewarding knowing you beat out some good competition?
A: It is. It was a fair competition and went for a long time. Everyone put their best foot forward. At the end of the day I feel good about it.
Q: How did you hear the news?
A: We met individually with coach Swinney last night after our team meeting. He took turns talking to us one-on-one and told us Kyle was going to be named the starter.
He said I was guaranteed to play in every single game, and that’s really the only thing I was looking for – just making sure I was going to get an opportunity to play and still prove myself.
He reiterated to us that just because Kyle is starting the first game doesn’t mean he’s going to start every single game.
So I’ve got a good attitude, a good positive outlook about it, and I’m getting my opportunity. So that’s all I can really ask for.
Q: Were you disappointed, or were you content with your defined role?
A: I kind of a had a feeling, pretty much, since the first week, that this was how it was going to happen and Kyle was going to be named the starter. It’s just how things fell. I was still getting reps, but in the back of my head, I just kind of felt Kyle was going to get named the starter.
It was fine by me. I was just going to make sure I was guaranteed I was going to play. And coach Swinney said to my face that he’s guaranteeing me I’m playing in every single game. And like I said, you can’t be too disappointed about that.
Q: Does this change your Saturday approach? Do you try to do something outside yourself to maybe try to prove you deserve more playing time?
A: No way. You definitely don’t want to press at all. I don’t want to try to be more than what I am. I’ve just got to continue to do what I’m doing. I’ve been very productive in practices and in scrimmages. I’m going to get to play. I’m going to get my opportunity.
The wrong thing to do would be trying to press and trying to do more than what I’m capable of doing. I’ve just got to be me and continue to have a good attitude about it and hope things work out.
Q: What do you think led to that feeling the first week of practice?
A: Just early on, the first two practices, you know, I didn’t practice really well, so Kyle started getting more and more reps with the ones. And as I got better early on, it went back to more even, rep-wise.
I don’t know. It was just kind of a gut feeling I had, you know.
Q: What do you think separates you two right now?
A: I don’t know. You’d have to ask coach Napier, coach Swinney. They’d probably give you a better answer.
Q: Do you see separation?
A: I feel like I’m good enough to start for the team, I’ll tell you that. But that was their decision to make.
Q: So, you think it happened early in camp?
A: The first two days I didn’t practice that well, but I don’t think the first two days are that important where he could jump that far ahead of me. I don’t think the coaches think he’s that far ahead of me. I’m right there.
Q: Overall, do you then feel like this camp has been a progression or regression?
A: I really don’t see how I could be any further along. I really feel like I’m throwing the ball the best I ever have, I really, truly believe that. It’s by far the best camp I’ve had, throwing the ball with zip, accuracy, getting the ball downfield, making good decisions.
I feel really comfortable with where I’m at. I just have to keep the same attitude every day.
BILLY NAPIER, OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR
Q: What was the decision based on?
A: Really just the consistent play as far as productivity practice in, practice out. Making the routine play, and then Kyle has made some spectacular plays over spring practice and preseason camp. We feel like play in and play out, he may give us a few more things.
At the same time, I want to make sure everybody understands the attitude and whole demeanor of Willy Korn and the whole impact he’s going to have on our team, not only as a player but a leader. He’s a well-respected guy and a class act on and off the field. Really excited to coach that group and see how each guy is going to impact our chance to win football games.
Q: How difficult a decision was it?
A: Very difficult. Any time you look two young men in the eyes who’s just battled their butt off and poured their heart and soul into an opportunity to be the starter, it’s tough to tell one of them that he’s going to be in the second role. Obviously Willy’s going to get an opportunity to play in every game and he’s going to be a contributor. I think he’s very well-respected among his team and this coaching staff. He does things that can help us win as a player and as a leader.
Q: How does naming a starter change their preparation during practice in terms of reps?
A: Probably the most specific thing is the third guy, his reps go way down. For him to play, you have to have two guys hurt, and that hasn’t happened in a long time. The most important thing for us reducing the third guy’s reps and making sure the first guy gets the continuity of the majority of the reps with the first group, first line and first receivers.
Q: Relieved to move past the QB storyline?
A: It’s great to know you’re going to have two quarterbacks playing. One guy’s the starter, another’s a contributor. Willy Korn is one of the most impressive people I’ve met in my whole life. I’m excited he’s going to get to run out there and play in Death Valley each game. But at the same time, I think it’s important for people to know Kyle Parker has earned the opportunity to be the starter. He just displayed a little bit more from arm strength to explosive potential.