Clemson’s offensive line has been hanging on by a thread over the last few weeks with the number of injuries that have accumulated.
Talking to the media on Monday, sophomore right tackle Walker Parks reflected on his unit’s development this season and the added pressure with limited guys available.
“We’ve gained a lot of confidence,” he said. “We had a rough game against Georgia obviously and it was hard building confidence after that, especially when you have a bunch of young guys. I don’t consider myself young anymore. I’ve played enough snaps where we’re past that. I think all of us have played enough snaps where we’re past that now, but coming out, we had a lot of first-year starters this year. So, we had a lot of guys trying to gain confidence.”
Amid all the adversity this Clemson offense has faced, Parks has confided in his dad, who played on the offensive line at the University of Kentucky in the 1990s.
“I always go to him,” Parks said. “I questioned myself after a few performances, especially after Syracuse, and I just sat down and talked to him. I had to ask him, ‘How do I handle this?’ and ‘How do I come back from this?’ It’s been very nice having him, especially with him playing offensive line.
“He knows what it’s like to have a bad game, and that wasn’t my first bad game and that won’t be my last bad game. He is my rock, he’s my hero and I mean he really is my best friend. He’s helped me through a ton of stuff this season, understanding what’s going on and how to move forward from that.”
A close father-son bond, Parks hears from his dad before every game.
“He still texts me on game days, ‘Remember who you are, be confident who you are, know your personality,’” he said.
Parks also reflected on the bigger role he’s had to assume and the adjustment from his playing time last year.
“Normally when I got in last season, we were up by four or five touchdowns,” Parks said. “It’s a lot different coming out on the first drive where you’re lining up against these other grown men and it’s the first play of the game, where you have to go to war for the whole entire game.”
The offense played arguably its best game all season on Saturday in the victory against No. 10 Wake Forest, collecting over 500 total yards and 333 rushing — a huge step forward for the Tigers, who had yet to dominate in the run game this season.
Parks noted how much fun he had pulling and creating those seams for his running backs.
“It was a dream. That’s literally like backyard football like a little kid,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for anything better as an offensive lineman. Getting out in space where I lack maybe weight, or something that most other offensive linemen have, that’s where I make up for it with speed. I was having a blast on Saturday. I think we ran it three or four times and they kept calling it, and I was like there’s no way we get to do this again. It was a great day, it was definitely memorable for me.”
The in-state Clemson vs. South Carolina rivalry resumes on Saturday after the game was canceled last year due to the SEC ruling out any non-conference games amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
This will be Parks’ first time playing in the highly anticipated traditional matchup.
“A lot of people have counted us out and a lot of people have counted them out,” he said, “so I think it’s a good game for both teams to prove ourselves.”
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