Parker Talks Defense

Phil Parker met with the media on Wednesday for his annual spring practice session. The Hawkeye defensive coordinator focused a lot of the discussion on various position battles throughout his unit. Read and watch what he had to say in this transcript and video from his press conference.

Kirk Ferentz Video/Transcript

Greg Davis Video/Transcript

Phil Parker: Good afternoon everybody, appreciate you guys coming here. Just want to tell you we are on the 13th day of practice today and basically what we are trying to get accomplished, we installed our defense thoroughly. We have not put everything in but most everything, our base stuff and a couple third down stuff.

Then we are looking to evaluate our depth chart. Obviously we lost some good players that we have to replace and obviously we are trying to find out who's who in the depth chart.

So right now it is pretty fluid at the linebacker position but I think Quinton Alston is obviously the starting Mike back and then inside up front between Carl Davis and Louis, they have done a good job, and then Drew Ott up front.

The other end would be determined between Mike Hardy and I think Nate Meier has really made a push to be a guy that can play on first and second down.

Johnny is back at strong safety but there's a fight going on there between Nico Law and him, and then Desmond King obviously came in and played as a true freshman; he's doing well there.

But we are still trying to figure out the rest of the pieces of the puzzle, and we've got a long ways to go right now, and hopefully the next three days, some guys can show us something that we can do and see where they are going to end up for the preseason.

Q. How is Lomax doing and what kind of prompted that switch?

PHIL PARKER: Well, I think Jordan is doing very well at the position. He's feeling more comfortable. I don't think he's there yet, exactly what I'm looking for as a safety. He's got to do some other things.

But I think what prompted us a little bit is Desmond came back and he did a good job at corner and Jordan, you know, he was injured and I know he's a smart kid and I know he's a tough kid and that's why we like to make corner as a rolled up guy. But we thought, hey, we are going to get our best guys on the field so we kind of made that adjustment, who is going to control the secondary and that's why we did it.

The free safety has to be the commander; he's got to be a vocal guy and he's got to be like an assistant coach on the field, and that's what I expect out of him.

Q. Assuming that Jordan is able to hold that position down and fill that void and meet those expectations that you have, what are you going to be looking for out of the corner stop where you have Sean and Maurice fighting that right now?

PHIL PARKER: Well, that's still open a little bit and like we always say, every position is all open as the guys make a lot of strides and you probably don't have -- I know Draper is working very hard and so is Maurice Fleming.

But there's another guy, Greg Mabin, that's made a lot of plays this spring and you guys probably don't even have him on your list. But he's a very tall, lengthy guy and he's made a lot of plays for us and he can run. He has not had very much playing time and he has not tackled very much but he's made some progress there. It's going to be a challenge to figure out.

Right now I couldn't tell you who is going to be the No. 2 corner right now.

Q. The Raider package seems like it is something that is here to stay.

PHIL PARKER: I think it's unique in the way we came about it. We were at Ohio State; we had trouble getting off the field on third down because we had the guys covered up, but we didn't have anybody to catch the quarterback, and he's a great athlete and a great player.

But we came out and Northwestern had a great athlete at quarterback that can move and so we designed a package that we were going to put more linebackers and guys would go chase and catch guys.

So with that, that's been very successful for us and we just keep on adding to that package. And really alls you're doing is taking out one or two defensive linemen and putting in some linebackers that can rush and get to the quarterback and you can play zone out of it and you can play man and you can do everything you can in your base stuff, and it just gives you better athletes on the field.

Q. Does that bump out nickel? Last year you played a low percentage of nickel.

PHIL PARKER: Well, everything changes with personnel, you know what I mean, and we thought that if you put nickel in the game and then you've got to take Kirksey out or you have to take Hitchens out and we didn't want to do that. That's why we created that situation and kind of limited nickel.

This year it might be a little bit more nickel or maybe even nickel/Raider type of deal, so it might put a defensive back in there instead of a linebacker; so that we are still making those decisions. But right now, we are not that far along in our preparation. We still want to learn how to play first and second downs really well and see what we can do with our guys' base fundamental stuff first.

Q. You guys kind of find out what you guys can do and then --

PHIL PARKER: You have to adapt. I mean, the package is still going to be there. It's just what personnel grouping is it going to be. Is it going to be four linebackers on the field or five linebackers like we had last year; or, is it going to be five DBs on the field, still have three linebackers or four linebackers on the field and two defensive linemen.

So the thing that's going to be a challenge is to see what way we are going to go.

Q. How has Quinton adjusted to the starting role at middle linebacker?

PHIL PARKER: I think he took a real good step in December with the bowl prep and understanding he's going to have to be the leader coming up the next year. I thought he started in December with the bowl prep.

I think he's done a great job up to this point of being the leader and he's kind of the guy that takes control of the huddle and demands from the guys on the field. So he's earned that respect by what he does and how he practices and how he's committed to understanding football.

And like I say, I think a lot of it comes down to football IQ and I think he's done a good job in that respect, and a lot of the guys respect that.

Q. What's the breakdown of what he needs to do well and maybe needs to work on, what do you look at as barriers to work on?

PHIL PARKER: One thing about Nate Meier is we know he's tough, and he was a little bit underweight last year and learning the position a little bit. And I think he's really gotten better playing blocks. And Hardy has been out there, obviously last year as a starter, we kind of flip them around a little bit from right end to the left end and do things like that.

But I think, we've just got to go back to the fundamentals, do what we're having you do and I think they are both working hard at it. I think Nate put on a little bit of extra weight, is a little bit more active. It's going to be a good battle.

Our decision is not made up yet, but he's going to have to play on first and second down, too and give a rotation right now with the three d-ends and can go out there and play, and McMinn has to show up and be the fourth, or if we start putting another linebacker down and obviously third down situations.

Q. Sacks don't equate to maybe what they used to ten years ago; how do you judge ends or what are the things you're looking for?

PHIL PARKER: A lot of people used to worry about that and guys worry about how many sacks you get, how many interceptions you get, how many of this, how many of that. It only matters if you win the game and everybody looks at the stats everywhere.

If you just go ahead and play the game to win, that's the most important thing. And I'm not big on, hey, this guy has this -- you have a four-man rush, it's hard to get a sack and if you go ahead and substitute on third down and you don't take one of those guys out, they are not going to get a sack sitting on the bench.

So I don't evaluate guys about sacks. I look at how well they are playing their technique, what about their effort, their toughness, how smart they are; do they come into work every day to do their job. That's the way the program -- since 1999, I know that's the way we've been. And I think it's worked this far, and I think we are fundamentally -- we want to be fundamentally sound in what we are doing.

Q. You have five defensive backs coming in in the incoming freshman class and last year Desmond came out of nowhere -- do you see anybody making a leap to the depth chart?

PHIL PARKER: You know, right now, it would be hard for somebody to come in right now. I think we have four corners that are really battling out to figure out who is going to be the ones and twos, and so I think it would be hard to break that line up.

But, by saying that, you just never know. Those guys have a ways to go. They are still not out of high school yet so I don't count on anybody really coming in to help; even as a safety, we have Miles coming in at strong safety and it's going to be hard -- we have two seniors that are right now battling a good position there.

So I think it will be a challenge for somebody to come in the back end to start but you just never know with what the injuries are. I didn't know Jordan Lomax was going to get injured so early in the year and he (King) stepped in. So I don't know if that will happen again or not.

Might happen at some other positions. Maybe there might be a linebacker that could step in or maybe there could be a third down guy that comes in like Reggie Spearman did and we didn't know what Reggie was going to be and he really helped us out.

Q. They kind of moved in that strong role last year, was there ever any thought to playing free and Nico Law -- or is he primarily strong?

PHIL PARKER: Right now we keep him at strong. What we look at is, hey, I'm going to say, who is the best guy to go in next. If he's the best next guy to go in, if Nico Law is the next best guy; if something happens to Lomax, then I can move to Johnny and Nico Law is the third best safety, then that's the way I'll move it. If Anthony Gair is the next guy in, then he goes in.

So I think I'm working with four potential guys that can have a chance to play next year at safety. But you've really got to evaluate, you know, where is the best 11 guys you have on the field. And it kind of goes back, do you put nickel in the game or do you keep all your linebackers in the game. So we want the best 11 guys out there at all times that's going to benefit us.

Q. Kirksey brought a lot of things that maybe didn't get enough credit until later on, how challenging is it to replace him and the many different personal things?

PHIL PARKER: It's difficult and we are going to have to change personnel groupings. He was a rare guy. Usually don't get those types of guys here at Iowa that can close on power-O off a tight end and then walk out and cover a No. 2 wide receiver man-to-man with no help. That's a challenge.

That's where you have to adapt and change your personnel grouping and substitute in if you have to. But for that position, he was unique and it's been a challenge but I'm not worrying about what we are doing right now. But in the fall, we'll definitely make some adjustments.

Q. What have the young guys done well?

PHIL PARKER: I think it's pretty good. Reggie Spearman I think has done a real good job. I think right now, you know, we have moved some other guys behind him.

I think Jewell has been a guy that we moved back outside because Travis Perry is out there right now obviously, experienced guy, knows exactly what we are doing in the defense and you know, he's been sick a little bit, so we had the opportunity to have some other guys in there.

But one of the guys, Jewell, has really showed up out there, just as a football player. He was an inside backer behind Q and Reggie, really as a backup Will. And we look at it and say, who is the guy going out and making plays. You just watch the film and you just watch the guys running around on tape and you see him tracking guys down.

Somewhere, he's going to have to fit in our system, okay, because when you give that much effort and you attack the football the way he does and make plays the way he's done, he's going to probably show up. Does he know everything right now? Not yet, but he still has a long way to go.


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