Senior offensive guard Stephen Parker said he knows what most thought of his ability over the past two years with the Arkansas offense.
"The perception on me -- and it was pretty much accurate -- was that I was a guy who could hammer you with my run blocking," Parker said. "That was me alright. I liked that okay, too. I liked the idea that I could pound on you."
Something happened over the last six to eight months. Parker decided that wasn't the way he wanted to leave Arkansas, as a one-dimensional player in a one-dimensional offense.
"I've worked so hard at my pass blocking, my pass sets, my ability to block for the pass, too," Parker said. "It's been my focus, my obsession this summer. I want to be an all-around player. I want to be a complete player.
"I've workes so hard this summer. I'm not saying I'm perfect. You don't get perfect. There are things that I thought I had down that you learned as a sophomore that Coach (Mike) Markuson reminds me of that need to be corrected. But I know I'm better. You better be cleaning things up, getting better on every single detail every day. I'm doing that."
Are the Hogs better at pass blocking?
"Much better," Parker said. "We better be. We are going to face a quick, fast defense. We are going to play against a team Saturday night in Southern Cal is built like a track team on defense. They have a defensive line that runs like track guys. That's our challenge, to pass block against those guys."
Parker said he's a different guy, even putting football aside.
"I still like to have some fun now and then, but I'm a different player now because I think I have matured a lot," he said. "I see a change in myself. But you know what, I see that in a lot of our players."
It starts with quarterback Robert Johnson.
"He's a different guy," Parker said of the junior QB. "Coach (Alex) Woods has made him into a different player. He's personally matured a lot. He's a changed guy. He's a changed person and a changed player.
"I saw it even before our coaches declared him as the starter. Robert was relaxed, more comfortable in the pocket and more comfortable in the huddle.
"Robert has been through so much. He has had the trials and come through them. Heck, some of it was our fault, the offensive line. We didn't protect him. Anyone could see that we didn't pass block for him too well last year. You have to protect the quarterback and we didn't. We are protecting the quarterback now. He's a lot more confident. He's been throught he worst of things and made it through it. You see him every day making plays because he is comfortable in what he's doing and how we are protecting him."
Parker thinks going against the Hogs' defensive line has prepared the Hogs for SC.
"We see our first line every day in some part of practice, both in team and individual," he said. "I see what we have as far as speed and quickness with Keith Jackson, Marcus Harrison, Sam Olajubutu, Freddie Fairchild and Desmond Sims. Those guys proved themselves to me. They've made us better. I'd say we've gotten better every single day. We are into the flow of things. We've been together as an O-line and we know how to make changes on the run. We've got the experience of playing in game and seeing everything and making quick adjustments.
"Right now, this team is firing on all cylinders. We are excited to be playing this game right now. We know what to expect. We are excited to be playing this team and are ready for Saturday night."
Stephen Parker: Hogs Prepared and Ready
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