When Clemson’s staff broke down and discussed last Saturday’s game against Wake Forest, the name of true freshman offensive lineman Walker Parks came up.
Head coach Dabo Swinney has spoke glowingly about Parks and how he isn’t a typical freshman in terms of his toughness and focused, serious mindset on the field – traits that were on display after Parks entered in the second half of the Tigers’ eventual 37-13 win over the Demon Deacons.
According to offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, Parks showed the unusual leadership qualities he possesses for a freshman when he pushed the second-team offensive line to pick it up when the offense was struggling to move the ball in the fourth quarter.
“I wasn’t down on the sideline, but just in our postgame conversation, his name did come up and the way he was described is just he was challenging the rest of those guys on the offensive line,” Elliott said. “Because we had a couple of three-and-outs there, and he was just challenging them like, ‘Man, we can’t go three-and-out. We want to play, we’ve got to get better, we’ve got to do our job.’”
Parks, a two-year captain at Frederick Douglass High School in Lexington, Ky., arrived at Clemson this summer as a unanimous top-100 recruit ranked as high as the No. 38 overall prospect in the 2020 class by Rivals.
Listed on Clemson’s depth chart as the backup at left tackle to Jackson Carman, Parks played 26 snaps in his college debut at Wake Forest.
Like Swinney, Elliott has been impressed by the way Parks has handled the transition from high school to college and carried over his “no-nonsense” mentality to the next level.
“He’s very no-nonsense, but he’s very coachable at the same time,” Elliott said. “Very serious, very focused, which a lot of freshman, they come in that way and then they might get a little bit overwhelmed with what they’re seeing on the practice field, how fast the game is played at this level, the complexity of the playbook. Sometimes that takes away some of that because they’re kind of just figuring out how to survive. But he’s a guy that hasn’t been fazed by any of that.”
Even though he is a newcomer, Parks isn’t shy when he feels the need to speak up, and his leadership is one characteristic that Elliott has certainly taken notice of.
“You can see that he’s got a very strong personality type in terms of his confidence and who he is,” Elliott said. “He understands what it takes to be successful, and I think that’s what gives him the confidence and the seriousness to go out there. Even though he’s a freshman, he’s not afraid to be a leader. So, that’s something that I appreciate about him.”
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