IOWA CITY — Sure, Phil Parker was asked if his Iowa defense would blitz more.
The answer was telling in a “who’s the boss” sort of way.
“I think Kirk is still the head coach, so I don’t think that I’m going to do anything too crazy,” the new Iowa defensive coordinator said during his introductory news conference on Friday.
This is head coach Kirk Ferentz’s program, from the zone blocking schemes to the 4-3 defense Iowa has had installed from Day 1 of Ferentz’s arrival in 1998. Parker, 48, said Iowa will stick with that 4-3, but will implement small things and is considering playing a safety closer to the line of scrimmage.
Nothing crazy, which is Ferentz’s imprint.
“I’m going to believe in what I believe on defense, what you need to do, and I think over the last 13 years I kind of formed my opinions on what I like to do,” said Parker, who’ll become just the fourth defensive coordinator at Iowa in the last 33 years. “They’re not too much out of line with what we’ve been doing.
“I might add to one or two things over there. You start looking at what we’ve done in the past and how much everybody is asking about how much we blitz, then you look at the percentages when we do blitz, we’re not bad, but we probably don’t do as much as everybody else.”
Parker is an original member of Ferentz’s initial staff at Iowa. Iowa went on the market officially for a new defensive coordinator in mid-December, when Norm Parker, 70, announced his retirement.
Phil Parker said he was offered the job in late January, so it’s logical to ask about the length of time between opening and hire for an on-staff hire.
“On the defensive side of the football, I had the luxury of having a lot of time to think about things,” Ferentz said. “. . . The thoughts I had there were kind of disjointed [with the Insight Bowl and recruiting on the plate], and then certainly in January my thoughts started going that way a little bit.”
Last month, Ferentz said Parker wasn’t always “leader in the clubhouse,” but the gap didn’t faze Parker. He was the last hire in 1999. He said he’s aware of Ferentz’s deliberate process.
“I kind of knew his method and how he went through his procedures,” Parker said. “He’s a very thorough guy and does a lot of research on you. I knew if it was going to be inside that he was going to take his time, and he had time.”
Iowa’s defense has completely turned over from last season. Parker and Darrell Wilson are the only holdovers, and Wilson will move from linebackers to defensive backs. Reese Morgan moved from offensive line to defensive line. LeVar Woods became full-time linebackers last month after taking over defensive line last December in the wake of Rick Kaczenski’s move to Nebraska.
Parker didn’t have input in the moves.
“I think Kirk had his own method in doing that,” Parker said. “To me by the time I really found out what way he was going, he kind of let me in on a little bit of that. I didn’t have much input at the time, because he made probably some decisions in his own mind probably months before.”
Ferentz pointed to Parker’s lineage as a player and coach. Parker was an all-Big Ten free safety at Michigan State where he was a graduate assistant under George Perles in 1987. Parker moved on to Toledo and coached under Nick Saban when he was head coach there in 1989-90 and then under Gary Pinkel, who went from Toledo to a successful run at Missouri.
Or course, Parker’s 13 seasons with Norm Parker at Iowa helped shape Iowa’s new defensive coordinator.
“He’s got a very sharp mind, very inquisitive mind professionally, and most importantly, his players have reflected his coaching on the field,” Ferentz said. “They respond to what he’s coached them to do, and they’ve gone out and performed in a really admirable way.
“They’ve done the same thing away from the building, which is a big part of college coaching.”
Parker will control Iowa’s game-day defensive calling. As coordinator and coordinator only, he will roam and make sure the talent can match what it’s asked to do on the field.
How this looks and works will unveil itself in 2012, which, early and on paper, will pull attention to Iowa’s defensive line.
It’s still a bit of a whirlwind. Parker still hasn’t decided where he’s going to coach from — sideline or press box.
“I’m mulling that over right now. I really don’t know,” he said. “There are different opinions on both sides. I’m going to think that one through.”
Another Ferentz imprint.