By Gray Gardner.
Justin Parker and Phillip Price are both making pushes this spring for more playing time.
A Student of the Game
Sophomore Justin Parker has been impressive so far this spring, something he attributes to his study habits.
While playing little last year, Parker spent most of his time with the older defensive players “getting in the film room and breaking stuff down and learning things.”
“I studied my butt off this off-season,” Parker said. “I think it’s showing out there on the field.”
Parker said that working with the older players has given him an edge in practice.
“I’m a lot more confident now, now that I’ve got my stuff aligned with the other guys, working with the older guys,” Parker said.
It’s no news that Kevin Steele’s defense is complex and sometimes difficult for younger players to get accustomed to. For Parker, this includes learning both the middle and outside linebacker positions.
“It is (hard absorbing Kevin Steele’s defense),” Parker said. “You got to learn what to do, but working with the older guys helps out a lot.”
Parker said that it doesn’t matter to him where he plays and that he’ll “do whatever will help the team.”
Many people are wondering what will happen with the defense when standout linebackers Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony get on campus in July. But Parker doesn’t seem to have given it much thought.
“We’re worried about the guys here right now, to be honest with you,” Parker said. “We’ll worry about the other guys when they get here.”
Worth the Wait.
Former walk-on tight end Philip Price is beginning to separate himself at left tackle.
Price, a redshirt senior, is known for his physical play on the field and, according to Price, this isn’t anything new.
“It goes back to where I’m from and how I like to play. I like to play physical football,” Price said. “I played physical football in high school and I’ve played physical up here.”
The Dillon native said that his physical toughness is one of his best attributes on the field.
“That’s just not something I have to worry about,” Price said. “You know, you have to coach some guys to be physical – that’s just one of my key assets.”
Price understands that physicality is not enough on its own, though.
“You can be physical but it’s got to be a control within the scheme, within the technique,” he said. “You have to put all the steps together. You can’t just go out there and be like, ‘I’m going to go out there and throw everyone around.’ That’s not the way football is played. You have to work with everybody. It’s a team game and that’s how you have to play it.”
This team mindset has certainly helped Price as he continues through the spring as the starting left tackle, a job he’s waited patiently for since switching positions in the summer of 2009.
“I approached it like I wanted to win the job,” Price said. “It’s just hard work. I’ve worked hard every other year. I’ve been behind Chris (Hairston) – and Chris is a great player – so I’ve just had to learn from him.”
“I’ve learned and I’ve learned and I’ve learned so now it’s my opportunity to try and make something of myself and do my best.”
While Price hopes to be the starter at left tackle come August, he knows that all he can do is his part.
“That’s my goal, but that’s not my decision,” Price said. “That’s Coach Swinney’s decision, Coach Caldwell – all the coaches. They’ll decide and they’ll do what’s best for the team and that’s where my true heart lies. If it’s me, if it’s Brandon (Thomas), it’s whatever. But I’ve got to go out and do my best, and if I do my best, then I can’t say nothing else.”