Gerad Parker has a new start-of-practice tradition: push-ups. Saturday, while Notre Dame players warmed up before practice, Parker dropped and gave everyone at least 20. It wasn’t a one-time thing.
“Every day,” tight end Mitchell Evans said. “That dude’s crazy. I don’t know the story behind it, but I think he’s just getting the juices flowing.”
It’s one of many new things for Parker in the last six weeks. He’s no longer just a tight ends coach. He’s in charge of the entire Notre Dame offense. It means bonding with all position groups, choosing the direction of the whole thing, up-close work with quarterbacks and added recruiting responsibility, among other duties. It’s a lot to juggle. The weight of it all, though, has been more invigorating than stressful, at least in the eyes of his players.
“He’ll make fun of me for saying this, but he’s got a little swagger to him now,” tight end Kevin Bauman said. “He’s got a little something to him now. But that, of course, comes with bigger responsibilities. There’s not a guy who has earned that more, who deserves it more than he any does. This is obviously years in the making for him to get this opportunity. I know as an offense, as a team, we’re excited for him.”
Parker, promoted Feb. 15, has three practices as offensive coordinator under his belt. He spoke to reporters after the third Saturday afternoon. Here are some highlights.
On choosing what he wants the offense to look like
“There are things you naturally are going to lean towards that you liked to do in past jobs or past things you’ve done. And then the first thing we focus on – I’ve said it and I mean it – I want to make sure we just lean on what is best for Notre Dame. What’s best for Notre Dame and who are the guys that we know need to touch that ball to provide the strengths it’s going to take for us to be great on offense.
“That’s going to be the focus. What are our pieces that make us really good? What’s best for Notre Dame, and then of course, between defenses. Right now is going to be a good time for us to continue to sample things of what our offense is, and I think that’s built from the past here.
“Our terminology and our ability these last two practices to line up and function as an offense with cadence and formation and snap count, all those things that make you worry, those things are kind of taken care of by the culture of the place that’s really good and wants to learn. But also a place that already knows those things, so at the start of all of this we were at least, like at the end of the day, I told my wife, we can line up and snap the ball, line up and hand the ball off. That’s a nice thing.
“Now, we have to choose what are we going to do and strip away, what are the things that need to be peeled off the layers a little bit that have stacked up over the years from maybe Chip (Long) coming through here, Tommy (Rees). It just stacks up naturally, so you’re trying to strip it away and help the things that need to stay. But then also, maybe this name, we need this, but name it something that makes a little bit more sense because we named it that for a reason we don’t even know anymore.”
On how knowing the personnel previously helps
“We know our identity. When I stand in the huddle next to our offensive line, I feel more confident. We’ll grow. We’ve got to get better and all those things. But our identity starts in there and builds out. We’ve got strong, mature backs. We’ve got two mature quarterbacks, and Steve Angeli and those guys are learning. That helps you. Then we’re going to continue to build on the perimeter to make sure we put ourselves in a position where we can win in space too.
“It’s fun to know those things and have answers for a couple, and then even the guys that are hurt – the two guys in our (tight end) room that are hurt (Eli Raridon and Bauman), we already know they’ve played in big games and do things too. It allows you not to have to go through that process as if you were a new guy that didn’t even know this place or the kids yet.”
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On what quarterback Sam Hartman brings
“Everything you all probably already wrote or you would assume. That guy’s been in a lot of lights, made a lot of throws under duress, played a lot of football and seen it go up and down. You’ll see a guy that’s mature and can handle success and failure. So that leadership breeds some confidence through people.
And [Tyler Buchner] carries it the same way, to be fair. They both carry themselves in that way. Tyler Buchner has taken a step too, which is a compliment. Like I tell guys all the time, the high tides raise all boats, and having Sam Hartman has done that for that room, for Tyler Buchner and vice versa. They’re working great together, and Tyler’s played exceptionally way these first three as well.”
On how Hartman helps off the field
We have pillars: the truth, the work, the results. That dude puts in the work, and I think that becomes contagious – ‘Heck, I better get in here early, I better study like that.’ And he’s also felt that pressure to do it, because he’s coming into an offense that’s brand new. It’s two-fold.”