In Depth with Norm Parker
Q: Norm Parker Opening Statement
Norm Parker: I guess I should tell you about them (Georgia Tech). The offense they have is something they have developed and perfected. The triple option goes back to 1965 and that kind of stuff. there was a time in the late 60’s and up to the 80’s that it was all you defended was the triple option. These guys have refined it, they never got away from it. These same guys basically have taken this from when they were at Hawaii and they went to Georgia Southern and Navy and now at Tech, so when you look at the bio of those coaches and Paul Johnson, a lot of those guys have gone with them. They are excellent teachers and they know what they are doing. Their kids play hard and they are the masters of this offense. When you hear the word fullback, you think of a big blocker. Their guy is like a tailback. He is a legit ball carrier that is a good runner. They have two guys that call A backs that go in motion or block or get the pitch or a combination of a lot of things like they used to do out of a wishbone. Those guys are very good blockers. They cut the heck out of you. They are down low blocking you than any team in the country. The wideout Thomas is great, I think. He is 6-3, 230 pounds that has great hands and speed. He is probably as dangerous as anyone on their team. What they do is run the ball, run it, run it and fake the ball and he is 20 yards behind everyone when they throw to him. The quarterback is a good option quarterback, he is a tough guy, he is hard to bring down, he knows what he is doing with the ball and you will not fool him with a defense. They have seen it all in their day. It’s about getting off blocks and playing the ball and reading your keys and playing football. That is what you have to do. After that, I don’t know what to tell you. They are very good. It’s different, but they know what they are doing with it.
Q: It’s like they line up if the same formation almost every time, how many things can they do out that?
Parker: It starts out the same, sometimes they will take a receiver and put them over, but they will start with two wide outs, their two A backs and have some motion, a fullback and a quarterback. That is where you start with it.
Q: You have had a lot of experience with this attack through the years you talked about. Can you compare this team to any team you have faced from the past?
Parker: Since we have been at Iowa, probably the most option oriented team we have played was Illinois a few years ago, here in Kinnick. They were the most dedicated team to the option that we have played since we have been here. Someone was saying Buffalo early on when we got here, but I don’t remember that game that much. But Illinois ran it out of split backs, but it’s basically all the same. When you have the triple option, there are four things you have to defend. One is the fullback, and he will put the ball in his belly and if the end doesn’t come down to tackle him, he will give the fullback the ball. If the end tackles the fullback, he is going to pull the ball out an go down and option the outside linebacker. If the backer doesn’t take him, the quarterback will keep it. If the backer takes him, he will pitch it to the back. You have the dive, the quarterback and the pitch, and the other thing people don’t talk about is they go dive, quarterback, he comes off the line of scrimmage and he throws the ball because your secondary is up there trying to force the run. As the guy comes out to block the strong safety, here comes the safety and this guy goes right past him and he throws him the ball and he runs down the field. So there are four things to defend here. You have to change up how you are covering it, but what they are looking for is for you to make a mistake and it’s hard to invent something they have not seen before. I compared it to the high school coach that has coached the Wing T for 40 years. There is not much that guy hasn’t seen. You can invent what you want, but that guy has probably seen it. The same is the case here. You only have 11 guys out there. When they are balanced, you have to play five and a half guys one one side and five and a half guys on the other side, because they go in motion so fast that you can’t read it.
Q: Who is the best you have seen run this type of offense in your career?
Parker: Probably when these guys were at Hawaii. We played them in the Aloha Bowl.
Q: Do you think a 3-4, with more linebackers & more people that can run is best to try and stop this offense?
Parker: We will play what we have. If I thought we were better in the 3-4 we would be in the 3-4 all year. I don’t think you invent things. If you have 3-4, then who do you want to take out, Ballard? Clayborn? Klug? Binns? To take one of those guys out and put another guy in the game I think you are losing. We are trying to get the best 11 on the field and go from there.
Q: The motion triggers things for this offense?
Parker: They have two guys, and one goes in motion and the play goes that way….or rather, that would be nice. Sometimes he goes in motion and they come back the other way. If the play always went towards the motion that would make it easier. But they start this guy in motion and they come back at you the other way.
Q: Is there more pressure on the strong safety? Will he follow that motion?
Parker: You have two safeties sitting back there. The motion could be toward the strong safety or away from the strong safety. You have two corners and two safeties. They have you playing identical. Sometimes you bring the safety down and they see that and sorry, we are going the other way.
Q: You mentioned that they wait for you to make a mistake, the staple of your defense is that they play their keys and don’t make those mistakes, is that the key again this time that everyone stays home and not get too anxious?
Parker: I think the key to the whole thing is….in all of the time we have been here, there has never been a team that will make the players study film and concentrate every play as much as this team will. this team will take more on the field preparation but the guys watching film on their own than any team we have played. If you don’t do that, you won’t win. You can’t think about football an hour and a half a day and play these guys or they will go up and down the field on you.
Q: Will the bulk of the work to stop them be done before the game even starts?
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Parker: Yeah, but once the game starts you have to be working. They know what they are doing, they see how you are doing things. They have the answer to what you are doing. You have to have a change up in there when they start doing things. But the secret to the whole thing is that you have to get off blocks and run to the ball.
Q: How did Miami hold them to under 100 yards rushing?
Parker: They got off blocks and they ran to the ball. Everyone plays them basically the same. You can start with your own ideas and by the time you are done tweaking it and everything, if you just put x’s and o’s out there, forget who it is, it’s all the same.
Q: WIll you be on the field this game?
Parker: I am going to try to get to the sideline, but right now I don’t know if I will make it.
Q: How are you feeling?
Parker: I feel better. My leg is weak and I don’t think I could get out of the way if something came at me. I fell down in a snowbank the other day and couldn’t get out of the snowbank. Some guy driving by in a car had to stop and help me up. I am sort of a feeble old man right now. The wheel chair is right outside the room and I walked in here.
Q: Has it been hard to deal with this season? It came on abruptly, I think the Indiana game.
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Parker: What had happened, and I don’t want to make this about Norm, but when they cut my toe off, where the toe is gone, that wound didn’t close. So we were wrapping it every day and as you walked on it, it would seep and it didn’t close. So we tried to get through the year and do something after the year. But after the Michigan State game, I went in the locker room and took off my shoe and it was full of blood. The doctor sent me to the hospital the next morning and they sewed it up again and put me in a cast and put my ass in bed. He said now you can’t walk on it at all, because when I was, the pressure wouldn’t let the wound close. So now the wound is closed, but in doing so, my leg, I am like an old man, atrophied and I limp around and that kind of stuff.
Q: Do you have a preference between the press box or the field?
Parker: It’s warmer up there and you can eat. I would rather be on the field, but people think you can’t see anything from the field. I watch practice every day from the field. It’s not like you have your eyes closed down there, but you are away from the players a little bit.
Q: Do you like being there, that quick communication?
Parker: Yes, I like to talk to the players. Up in the press box, it’s like you are watching the game from in a closet, there is no noise or anything up there. you might was well be watching on tv and turn the sound down.
Q: Every year, we go through this, do you see yourself coaching again next year?
Parker: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Q: Think at all about when it might be time to step aside?
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Parker: If I didn’t think I could do it, I would be the first one to say that’s it. I don’t want to do it if I don’t believe I can do it. That is not fair to the team, to the other coaches…I don’t want to try to do something that I know I can’t do. When I think I can’t do it, this cowboy is heading the other way. I don’t want to be that guy that hangs on longer than he should, which maybe I am already, I don’t know.
Q: How much has Nesbit improved over the years, with such an amazing switch of offensive philosophy?
Parker: He has done a heckuva job in terms of knowing what the defense is, knowing what the defense is trying to do, getting rid of the ball and there is no question he is a better thrower now than he was before. They are a running team, but when they throw it they are throwing for home runs. He is pretty good and he is strong and he can scramble around and shake a guy off and throw a ball. He would remind you strength wise sort of like Juice Williams. He is not a frail guy that you can grab with one arm and bring down. He has enough strength to push you away and he has enough arm strength to get it down the field.
Q: Last year you had Spievey come out of nowhere and really showed something. Would you say Klug did that this year?
Parker: I think Klug has played awfully well. I think those front four guys have really played well. Not taking anything away from the rest of them, but those guys sort of set the pace up there. Against a team like Tech, the better the front four guys play, and the more they can hit and expand…let’s say the front four have a certain area and the linebackers are responsible for another area and so on. If the front four can expand what they can take care of, then it makes it easier on everyone else. If you have to use too many up inside to stop the fullback, the people on the outside are exposed. What those four guys up front can do is the key. If they can control the run and expand and cause the quarterback some problems when he has the ball and help get to the pitch, we are overlapping and you have something going.
Q: Has there been a player this year that has surprised you?
Parker: I think you could take Clayborn, he has had a great year. Klug has played well, Binns has played well, Ballard has done a lot of things. Angerer we thought would be a good player and he has done everything plus more. Edds and Hunter have played well. Sash is, you know, getting all kinds of balls all over the place. Greenwood has played very well. Prater has held up out there and so has Spievey. I think they have all upped their game a little bit, whether or not there is one guy, I don’t know about that. It has been spearheaded by the four guys up front. They make it easier on the other guys.
Q: Clayborn is a better player this year than last, what has been the difference for him?
Parker: If you take a football player and just look at him as a person, he is a year older, a year bigger, a year stronger, a year more mature and a year smarter. He should be better. He should be better as a junior than a sophomore, and he should be better as a senior than as a junior, if he works at it each year. It’s when they think they have arrived and they quit working to get better when you have a drop off. Doyle does his job and we do ours and the kids do theirs, they should improve each year.
Q: How does Adrian rank with the other pass rushers you have had here?
Parker: He is different, but he is with all of the great ones. When you talk about the defensive linemen that have played here.
Q: There is talk about he and Spievey maybe ready for the NFL. In your opinion, do you think are they ready?
Parker: In my humble opinion? I think any of you guys that write that these guys are going to the NFL don’t know what you are talking about. It’s to their advantage to be a year bigger and stronger and faster and more mature. Because there is a great deal of difference between high school and college, and college and pro. And if you get there too early, you will get eaten alive. Too many guys listen to too many agents and guys that think ‘Oh you are going to be this or that.’ The only guys that will decide where they are selected are the professional teams. Those are the only guys that decide where they get drafted and when. It has nothing to do with what Mel Kiper says, or the New York Times or anything else. It’s what does that football team say. I think before any of those guys think about turning pro, they had better get with the football teams and the people that know and find out exactly ‘where would I be drafted’. Not what some guy says or what some agent tells you because he is trying to get a dollar out of your pocket. They tell these guys all kinds of things, like they can get you drafted; they can’t do a damned thing for them. No way. When we recruit, we are going to talk to the high school coach, to this guy or that guy, but we are going to recruit the guy we want. We are not going to get talked into by so and so said this. We want to see it on film and those guys do the same thing. There are a lot of guys out there that try to do it too early and they get lost in the shuffle. There are very few guys that can come out as juniors and make it. THe guys that can do it are usually the skill guys. Percy Harvin or someone like that. But those guys, where it takes strength and power and learned things, it’s hard to do. It’s hard to do. I think they better find out exactly where they are going to be drafted before they venture out in the deep water. That water is not only deep, it’s cold.
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