Gerad Parker mentioned early in a press conference to introduce him as Notre Dame’s new offensive coordinator on Monday the nine stops in his college football coaching career.
Two of them — at the Mountain State’s two Division I universities — in different ways helped shape his offensive discipline as he undertakes a promotion at one of college football’s premier programs.
Parker was wide receivers coach at Marshall in 2011-12 and offensive coordinator and receivers coach at West Virginia from 2020-21.
His experiences in Huntington and Morgantown provided complementary pieces as part of a wide-ranging experience of different styles and position groups.
Working under coach Doc Holliday and offensive coordinator Bill Legg with the Thundering Herd, Parker coached in a prolific passing attack at a breakneck offensive pace. In 2012, Marshall was sixth nationally in total offense, rolling up 534.3 yards per game, and tops in the country in passing yards per contest (365.1).
Later, coaching the Mountaineers under Neal Brown, Parker was heavily involved with red zone offense, he said. He also called West Virginia’s plays at times during that two-year stint.
Parker, 42, attended Lawrence County (Kentucky), which he departed as the KHSAA’s career leader in catches, receiving yards and touchdown receptions. He is one of four members of the Bulldogs’ program in the 1990s who went on to Division I and/or NFL coaching staffs, joining Philadelphia Eagles tight ends coach Jason Michael, West Virginia safeties coach Dontae Wright and the late Phil Ratliff.
“It’s blue-collar as it gets,” Parker said of his hometown of Louisa, Kentucky. “We were built around a community that loved football. That football success in that program kinda grew around the town. It’s something you wanted to be a part of.
“When you grow up in a place that demanded that kind of success from a small town, you naturally have a chip on your shoulder to do great things because you want to prove everyone wrong.”
Parker’s résumé, including his work as the Fighting Irish tight ends coach in 2022, gave him no shortage of ideas for how to run Notre Dame’s offense. Parker offered his assistance to Irish coach Marcus Freeman to fill the offensive coordinator position, he said, while also staying up late at night making notes in his cell phone to be prepared if he got that opportunity himself.
“My phone’s decorated with those,” Parker said. “And when you put those in, you always stay prepared, because what a sin it would’ve been if Marcus Freeman calls my number to do an interview and I’m not ready. That’s how I felt about it.”
He needn’t have worried. Parker got an interview during the second round of Notre Dame’s search after candidates Collin Klein of Kansas State and Andy Ludwig at Utah elected not to leave their current jobs for the Irish.
Freeman put Parker through a rigorous examination, he said, for the OC position and was impressed with the result.
“It was halfway through the interview, and my mind was made up,” Freeman said.
Freeman wants to see an pro-style offense and a “multiple” approach — with multiple formations, personnel packages and ways to attack opposing defenses with both the run and the pass, he said.
Parker demonstrated a vision for that and already possesses familiarity with both the Irish and with Freeman, with whom he coached at Purdue in the mid-2010s.
“Nobody is more charged to do this job than I am,” Parker said. “Every morning I wake up from this point forward will be to put my feet on the ground and make this the right hire for coach Freeman and everybody in this organization.”
Parker expects to use his familiarity with Notre Dame’s personnel to his advantage and is open to whatever means necessary to grow the Irish offense. He said emphases will include ball security, effort, physicality and understanding details.
Parker was the interim head coach at Purdue for six games in 2016. As Irish offensive coordinator, he replaces Tommy Rees, who left for the same position at Alabama.
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