Ready and waiting

CLEMSON - At this time last year, Justin Parker was the hot name on the Clemson recruiting radar. In February of course, he would go on to sign with the Tigers.

Many assumed he'd contribute right away at any one of the three linebacker positions.

Brandon Maye was the only returning player with significant experience. Before the 2010 season started, the two-year starter moved to the weak-side.

Sophomore Corico Hawkins took over duties in the middle with redshirt freshman Spencer Shuey listed as his backup.

Redshirt sophomore Jonathan Willard, who played sparingly a year earlier, was listed as the backup to Maye.

Another redshirt freshman, Quandon Christian, had the strong-side spot. Jack-of-all trades Daniel Andrews was the backup.

But Parker has played only 56 snaps in eight games this season, serving as a reserve in a linebacker group that's short on bodies.

Under normal circumstances, a redshirt might have been the ideal route.

Along with former walk-on Brock Henderson, that was it, as far as linebackers.

Only six players recruited to play linebacker at Clemson were on this year's roster.

So Parker played, but only sparingly.

"I take it as building character and getting used to the system," he said of his role this season. "Next year, I'll have a lot better year."

Parker believes he'll need to carry over a strong work ethic into the offseason.

"During the offseason, I've got to stay in the film room, stay working hard—that way I can improve a lot," he said.

During fall camp, Parker marveled at the speed of the game. The pace of play was so much faster than what he saw as the nation's No. 13 ranked middle linebacker.

"That was one big thing I had a problem getting used to," he said. "I've adjusted to it."

Parker has also had to find ways to keep pace off the field.

"I manage time, getting up in the morning for school and then going to practice. I would say time management is one thing that I've really had to get used to," he said.

Now, Parker's experiencing his first taste of Clemson bowl practice.

"It's been great. I like the intensity," he said.

The season started with him as a reserve at middle linebacker, behind Hawkins and Shuey.

Parker was moved over to the strong-side when Andrews went down for the season with an injury. He's practiced at both positions during bowl practice.

"I work with the first group a little bit. Not as much as I'm working with the second team. I'm just getting better," he said.

Double duty isn't a chore either. It makes him a more versatile option, incase defensive coordinator Kevin Steele needs him in a pinch during the New Year's Eve Meineke Car Care Bowl game against South Florida.

"In case anything happens with anyone on the field, I'm able to step in and help out," Parker said.

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