Phil Parker has had a long time to think about it, and he’s become convinced of one thing when it comes to coaching football.
“Defensive coaches don’t live as long as offensive guys,” Iowa’s defensive coordinator joked during Wednesday’s “Hawk Central” radio program on KxNO. “Do a study on it. Ten-year difference. We’ve got to worry about everything; they don’t have to worry about everything.”
Parker, in his 20th year on the Hawkeye staff under coach Kirk Ferentz and his seventh as the leader of the defense, was responding to a question about how rule changes in football always seem to favor the offense. That’s a notion he certainly has found true.
What one rule change would he like to see reversed? Parker was quick with an answer:
“This is the one thing that they said they changed a long time ago. But back in the '80s, I just don’t remember the offensive linemen going downfield at all — not a yard, not a half a yard,” said Parker, a defensive back at Michigan State in the 1980s.
“When they go to three — I think that’s where their max is — I think that’s deceiving to the defensive backs or the linebackers that want to try to come up and support the run. They gave them six because they can’t tell the difference between three and six.
“So that’s the thing I think that’s really a challenge for college football all over — the RPOs (run-pass options), as they call it. I just think if they’d be a little more clear — that they can’t go down the field on pass plays — that’s the rule change I’d like to see.”
Parker said new rules meant to punish “targeting” by tacklers have also made his job more challenging. The rules are aimed at minimizing contact above the shoulders. Parker said it means “you’ve got to be very careful in how you teach guys to tackle.”
“You’ve got to keep your eyes up, you’ve got to hit them square, and I always believed you’ve got to hit them with your chest — I still teach that today,” Parker said. “It’s not about putting your head down. You put your head down (and) you’re going to get knocked out — you’re going to cause a concussion — or you’re going to bring some damage to the opponent.”
Listen to the full interview: Iowa DC Phil Parker joins 'Hawk Central'
Former Hawkeyes land in good spots
Parker saw two of his former players selected in last month’s NFL draft and believes both all-Americans are positioned to succeed at the next level.
He, along with Ferentz, joined cornerback Josh Jackson and his family at the draft festivities in Dallas. Jackson was thought to be a first-round draft pick, and he showed off his fashion flair on the red carpet. Parker joked that he didn’t try to outshine Jackson on his special night.
“It’s hard; he’s probably come into a little more cash than I have,” Parker said.
Jackson ended up being selected in the second round by the Green Bay Packers.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed that he didn’t go in the first round,” Parker said. “But I think he went to a great organization with the Green Bay Packers. I think it’s a good fit. The one thing about him: He’s humble, and he’s going to work hard at it.”
Middle linebacker Josey Jewell was taken in the fourth round by the Denver Broncos, a team built around a strong defense, particularly on the line.
“It’s always good to have guys up front that can play well,” Parker said. “I’m sure Josey is going to fit in well there. He’s a quick learner and obviously, he knows how to find the ball.”
What about Amani Jones?
Replacing Jewell won’t be so easy, Parker admitted. But he remains high on junior Amani Jones, who emerged during spring practices as the top choice at middle linebacker for 2018.
“The experience that Josey had compared to Amani Jones is quite a big difference,” Parker conceded about losing a three-year starter. “But I do like (Jones’) enthusiasm. He’s a guy that’s very hungry. He’s always around the building, always trying to get better. I think he’s a guy, to me, that really has the juice for us in the middle — you always need someone in the middle to do that, and right now, he’s at the top of the list going into fall camp.”
Not that Jones doesn’t need to get better.
“I think he has to work a little bit more on pass coverage, actually knowing where to drop,” Parker said. “I think once he knows where he’s going, he does a really good job. But I think sometimes he’s always trying to attack the run a little bit too much. I think the more he gets looks at it, the more he’ll see it and he’ll do a better job in pass coverage.”