Clemson University

Clemson's Parker hitting his stride

CLEMSON - When Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier thought of the best example of redshirt freshman quarterback Kyle Parker's improved preparation, his first thought did not go to one of Parker's performances in victories against Wake Forest or Miami.

It went to the first half of last week's 49-3 landslide over Coastal Carolina. From the shotgun, Parker noticed to his right that receiver Jacoby Ford began in motion - as the running back to Parker's left leaned forward to go in Ford's direction.

Parker barked Clemson's emergency call to get everyone's attention, sending both parties back to reset before resuming the play call.

"That's one of those things you cover maybe once or twice," Napier said. "He remembered and had enough football knowledge and IQ to realize what he could do to fix that problem.

"That was good to see."

Fans see Parker's progress through the air - from the game-winning rope he fired to Jacoby Ford at Miami, compared to a month earlier against TCU when an attempted pass would sail high and incomplete.

After the loss to TCU, and the debacle at Maryland a week later, Clemson coaches drilled the need for players to sharpen their preparation and take ownership of their performance. It was that philosophy that spawned Swinney's infamous practice confrontation with Napier thereafter.

The subject of the exchange was Parker, whom the Tigers quietly fingered as the central figure who must "grow up" and mature for the team to break its underachieving cycle.

Parker proved up to the challenge, guiding Clemson to an offensive rebirth and a three-game winning streak entering today's game with Florida State.

"The biggest thing (Napier and I) realized is the games we were losing, it was because I was in position to make the plays to win the game," Parker said. "Whenever you have a freshman quarterback coming into the season, you don't want him to have to make all the plays to win the game, but that was what was happening.

"So a lot of people realized we were going to have to start stepping up and making some throws, or we weren't going to win. Ever since then, we've been putting the work in and realizing pretty much how I play, that's what our results will be."

During the bye week, Parker said he started taking more meticulous notes during position meetings and has stayed after practices to spend a few more hours of his own on film study.

For his part, Napier reorganized and delegated some of his other duties to devote more concentration to developing Clemson's quarterbacks. With Parker in particular, coaches have tried to guide him through the finer details of execution and decision-making - from game management to how to use his eyes, or to move defenders and select a target.

Consequently, Parker's progress has persuaded Napier he can be more creative with first-down play-calling, and the Tigers have achieved greater success sustaining drives and scoring in the red zone.

"There's no question we've been able to keep people off balance," Napier said. "I think a lot of that has to do with the quarterback play. As he's grown up, we've been able to give him more decisions to be made on down-and-distance and not been as vanilla.

"As he's come along, we've come along. Always felt like that was how it was going to go. So hopefully he will continue to progress this week, and a lot of it has had to do with him learning how to prepare. ... We want to be in those locker rooms like at Miami, not Maryland. To do that, to make it fun, then hey, get your butt ready to play. And then let's go cut it loose."

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