I think we are doing alright this spring. Knock on wood and stay away from injuries and that kind of stuff. Up front, those guys are a year older and a year stronger and a year more mature. There is no question that they are much better. I think at the linebacker position, Humpal is now our strongside linebacker and I think doing an outstanding job. I think he is going to be good. Inside linebackers, we have Klinkenborg and Gablemann in the middle now and Ed Miles and Bryon Gattas at the weakside linebacker where Greenway played. Those two kids are doing alright. At corners, Godfrey and Shada if we had to play today, they would start and Fletcher is the third guy. The safeties are Merrick and Paschal. If we can avoid some injuries in these last three days, I think it will be a successful spring.
Q: Do you have to be more hands on with the linebackers this spring?
Norm Parker: Yeah, a little bit, but Klinkenborg and Gablemann have been here all the time. Both of them are really great students. Klinkenborg is like a 3.98 student. Abdul was a super smart guy in there. Mentally, I don't think that is a problem in there. Then Ed Miles, he is intelligent. The weakside backer, it's teaching Gattas the JC guy. Everyday you teach him stuff. Mentally, I don't see that as a crisis in there.
Q: How has Godfrey taken to cornerback?
Parker: Good. I think the best thing that happened to Godfrey is that he was a corner, he was a free safety, he was a jack of all trades and master of none. For him to settle down and be a corner, that has been good for him. He has had a good spring. He has ability; there is no question about that. For him to settle down at one position rather than try to know a little bit of this and that, he is much better now.
Q: What has Mike Humpal shown you?
Parker: I think Humpal is…I am a big Mike Humpal fan. To me, first of all he is super smart. He is a good enough athlete; he won the state of Iowa 219-pound wrestling title two years in a row. He ran track and was in the high hurdle finals. He is a hard working guy. I think he will be an outstanding player. Better than good player. I am super high on Mike Humpal.
Q: Did he play inside last year?
Parker: Yeah, he played behind Greenway last year.
Q: The defensive line is back and intact. How does that feel?
Parker: Good. Good. Mattison and Iwebema are the ends and they are more mature and better players than they were a year ago. King and Kroul are much better. This time a year ago, we were still trying to convince King that moving there from linebacker was a good idea. So he is much, much better than he was a year ago. Kroul is better, Bain has been slowed up with a bit of a knee injury, but he will be alright. Then there is Vernon Jackson that has made a lot of progress in there. Kanellis at defensive end, he is coming along and getting better every day. I think we are going to be alright. There are a couple of young kids in there; Collins, he has a chance I think. Ettore Ewen, when he gets back from his knee injury, I think we are going to be alright in there. I really do. We have much more depth and experience than we did this time a year ago.
Q: Kirk mentioned Robertson to strong safety.
Parker: Corey Robertson is a strong safety. He is a talented, talented athlete that we just threw back there. He has only had a couple practices, but you can see that this guy can be a something special player someday. He can be a something special player. He is a big guy that can run back there. He is an athlete; he can be a special player at strong safety.
Q: Is it better to have a veteran defensive line and new linebackers or the reverse, like last year?
Parker: It's better for the defensive line coach to have a veteran defensive line. That is the way college football is. They come and they go and you have to learn to live with and without them. It's nice if you have guys behind them like Klinkenborg and Gablemann and those kids, that it's not all brand new to them. It's not like they have never been there before. They know what they are doing. Will they be as good as those other guys, that is the question. But they should know what they are doing.
Q: How are the other battles at linebacker?
Parker: Right now, I would say that Gablemann and Klinkenborg are dead even at middle and Miles and Gattas are dead even. It's good competition, where they are helping each other out. It's good in there. Pat Angerer, I think is a guy someday that can be a weakside backer for us, too.
Q: Do you have any areas of concern on defense?
Parker: Yeah, the whole defense. You know, yeah. We will see if we are any good. This is practice. They may get out there in a game and choke. I don't think they are going to. I hope they won't.
Q: Has a leader emerged on defense like you had in Abdul and Chad?
Parker: Not to that extent. Abdul was really a special guy. Abdul and Chad were both special. Abdul as a middle linebacker, he was probably the smartest middle linebacker that I have ever coached. He is a sharp, sharp and hardworking, very conscientious and team oriented. He was a something special guy, just not as a player but as a leader and all of that stuff. He was a special, special guy. We haven't had too many guys….if you took the best guys we have ever had here, which I am not going to do, Abdul would be one of the five. He is one of the most respect five guys in the seven years we have been here.
Q: Do you have any idea of where Abdul might go in the draft?
Parker: No. I don't know. Teams call about him and they want to know about him and it's the intangible things with Abdul. He is not 6-4, 250-pounds. He is not that, but it's the other things that he has that are intriguing people. The more he meets with their staffs, they have them come out and visit with them. The more Abdul and Greenway meet with them, the higher their stock goes. Those two kids are sharp, sharp guys.
Q: When you have a front four back like this year, how do expectations change in the spring?
Parker: You don't expect them to make mistakes like they did a year ago. Everything should not be a crisis if you have a check inside or something. You should not be blowing those checks where last year you were teaching them what the checks were and what to do. Now those things should be a little bit like falling off a log. It shouldn't be a crisis in there. I think they are getting like that; they are getting that experience in there.
Q: Are there any other names on defense that people won't know but have done a good job?
Parker: I would say at corner that Fletcher is the guy that is poking his head out there the most. Ma'Quan Dawkins had a knee injury, and he goes through skeleton drills. I think he looks decent out there doing that kind of stuff. Those are the two guys that I think are jumping out there the most. Moylan has had a bad foot, so he has not practiced at strong safety. He was the #2, but that has given Robertson a chance to work in there. He needs to go in there and make a million mistakes and just learn. It's like taking the guy to the end of the dock and throwing him in and say ‘swim' and hope that he doesn't drown. That is what we have done with him.
Q: Who is backing up Paschal at free safety?
Parker: Marcus Wilson, he would be the second free safety right now, if we had to play. He is a freshman that came over to us about halfway through the year. He is learning, too. The safety position is sort of a work in progress out there, with the two's.
Parker: I think they can be good. I think they can be real good. I think that Bain can be every bit as good. I picture those three guys together; King, Kroul and Bain. I group them together. Bain is athletic. I think those guys are athletic inside and I think the whole line is athletic. They can run and move and do some things. They are just not plodders.
Q: Has Bryan Mattison's dad been to practice? (He is a defensive coach at Florida)
Parker: We are barring him from practice. No, I talked to him the other day. They are just starting spring ball. He has his own problems.
Q: How are you feeling physically?
Parker: Good. I feel good, I just look bad. I am alright. I feel OK.
Q: Is number 65 coming up (age)?
Parker: That is the bad one, right?
Q: Is that the new 40 now?
Parker: I don't know. Hopefully. I am alright. I would love to be 40 again. I would get a different job.
Q: What would that be?
Parker: I don't know. I would be a reporter. Alright. Let's all have a nice summer. Don't rush into this season too fast. Let's all have a nice summer.