One of the primary positions of need for Tennessee in the 2021 recruiting cycle is the offensive tackle spot. The Vols are expected to start a pair of true sophomores on the edges of the line in the 2020 season. Both those sophomores, Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright, could be potential candidates to head to the NFL after just three seasons in Knoxville. This means that if Jeremy Pruitt and Will Friend don't want to risk starting a pair of true freshmen again, they need to land tackles in this cycle. The Vols have done an astounding job under Pruitt and Friend in completely overhauling the offensive line in a short window. The next step is to create quality depth in the group, and to keep quality talent coming in each year. The Vols made a big splash on that front earlier this week, flipping in-state offensive tackle prospect J'Marion Gooch of The King's Academy (Seymour, TN) from Auburn. Will Friend and Jeremy Pruitt have now landed the commitment of another massive, in-state offensive tackle in William Griffin-Parker from Pearl Cohn (Nashville, TN).
Parker is one of the latest prospects to come out of the Pearl Cohn factory. At 6’5” and 330 pounds, Parker is a truly massive body on the offensive line. This fits with what Friend and Pruitt have prioritized in their linemen since arriving in Knoxville. The surprising part is the kind of athlete Parker is at that size and weight. Parker, like many of the big men to come out of Pearl Cohn, shows on film and in person that he is in shockingly good condition at 330 pounds. He plays every snap for the Firebirds, playing both offensive tackle and nose tackle. Even in the heat, even at that size, Parker does not fade physically under the workload. He looks as sharp, quick, and effective in the fourth quarter as he does in the first. Parker also plays basketball (missed time this year due to a lingering injury) for the Firebirds, one of the better teams in Tennessee in their class. Parker isn't just a massive body on the line, he is an exceptional athlete at the position.
It is the combination of size and athletic talent that defines Parker's game, that, and a nasty streak between the whistles that offensive line coaches love to see. Parker is fast enough and moves well enough laterally to get deep into a drop if it is called for against a speed rusher. While his arms aren't as long as most left tackles, he overcomes that with his quickness. Most long-armed left tackles use their reach and hand punch to knock speed rushers off their path, allow themselves an extra step to move in front of the rusher, and extend the corner the pass rusher needs to turn. While Parker's reach isn't that of a prototypical tackle, he is simply fast enough to stay with and in front of pass rushers when he drops. Parker does also have solid reach, and when he connects punching out, he can knock a defensive end to the ground with his strength. Parker has all the tools to be a quality pass protector at the next level, but he is still a bit raw in that area. He will need to develop his technique to match his athletic ability, however, Parker is a bright young man that takes coaching well. Will Friend is noted for his ability to teach technique, and Parker should pick up everything he needs to develop with his attitude.
The most likely position for Parker when he gets to Knoxville will be at right tackle. Some of this comes from the shorter reach and the development required in pass protection. Most of it comes from the fact that Parker is an absolute road grater in the running game. Parker mauls defenders off the line. Yes, he plays too high at times, and yes, he needs to tighten up hand placement. Still, with that said, the results speak for themselves, those results typically being a trail of defenders on their bakes in Parker's wake. That outstanding conditioning really comes into play in the run game with Parker. At his size, with his strength and disposition for punishing defenders in the run game, Parker can seriously grind opposing defenses down late in games. He leans on opponents, especially late in games. Combined with his aptitude for getting to the second level and washing out multiple defenders per play, this leads to big holes on Parker's side. He is big and strong enough to drive back massive defenders in short yardage situations, and Parker is also athletic enough to get out and lead a sweep, halfback screen, or tunnel screen. In fact, Parker's ability to be effective in the screen game is one of his most important traits. Pearl Cohn has a bevy of speedy skill players they get the ball to on screens, and Parker has the speed to go lead the convoy for all of them. Once he has a head of steam, he can clear a massive alley for his ball carriers.
Right tackle is likely where Parker lands in Knoxville, but with the Vols still potentially looking for another nose tackle prospect this cycle, his defense is worth mentioning as well. Parker plays as a true nose tackle for the Firebirds, and plays the position well. He has the kind of size that Tennessee would want to put in the middle of their defense. He has the size and strength to command a double team on every play while neutralizing those blockers. He does have the strength quickness, and hand technique to split those double teams at times. Parker is more than a plugger in the middle though. That lateral quickness and speed allow him to chase down plays from the backside that he initially rerouted by clogging the middle of the defense. Parker has the speed to get out and wrestle ball carriers down outside the tackle box. When he does split a double team or beat a center or guard across the face, Parker has enough speed to be an effective interior pass rusher, something that is again rare for nose tackles. Parker is most likely a dynamic right tackle in his future, but his defensive skills should make this staff at least consider his potential on that side of the ball.
Jeremy Pruitt lands a player in Parker that fits the mold he and Will Friend have set for their offensive linemen. He brings great size and exceptional athletic ability. While Parker is a bit raw and will need to develop his technique, he has an excellent attitude and will be playing for one of the best developers of offensive line talent in the nation. Parker has the tools to be a solid pass protector and a force in the running and screen games. He also brings some versatility to the 2021 class as the potential to work at nose tackle is there as well. The Vols bring in an in-state player that has been a priority for a long time, at a position of need, and come out ahead after a late push from Alabama. Will Friend and Jeremy Pruitt have landed a good one, and they have to be excited about the dimension and potential that William Griffin-Parker brings to their team going forward.