Penn State Football

Penn State hires former Purdue, Duke assistant Gerad Parker as new WR coach

Former Purdue interim head coach Gerad Parker was named Penn State’s new wide receivers coach on Thursday.
Former Purdue interim head coach Gerad Parker was named Penn State’s new wide receivers coach on Thursday. Associated Press

Penn State has found its replacement for David Corley.

Duke assistant Gerad Parker has been tapped as Penn State’s next wide receivers coach, the program announced Thursday. Parker, 38, served as Purdue’s interim head coach in 2016 and also has coaching experience at Kentucky, Marshall and UT Martin.

“We are excited to add Gerad to our staff,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said in a written statement. “He has a comprehensive background and knows the Big Ten. He is a terrific fit for our staff, university and community.”

Added Parker: “Personally, I feel I have been called on this earth to coach wideouts and help grow men. What better place to do that than Penn State, a place that is high in talent and has a chance to compete for championships.”

In addition to stops at Purdue, Kentucky and Marshall, Parker was also hired at Cincinnati and East Carolina, but never coached a game for either program. Why? Well, that’s where Parker’s past comes into play.

The former Kentucky wideout was arrested for drunk driving on Feb. 21, 2017. Court records show West Lafayette, Ind., police stopped Parker after he drove the wrong way down a one-way street. Parker was charged with a misdemeanor for operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent. He was jailed and released on bond. A jury trial is scheduled to start on Jan. 17.

Parker’s arrest is how he landed at Duke in the first place, as a “football operations assistant for offense.”

After Purdue hired Jeff Brohm in Dec. 2016, he replaced the Boilermakers’ previous staff, which included Parker. A month later, the former Purdue interim head coach signed on to be Cincinnati’s running backs coach, before resigning in February of that year with the intent to join East Carolina’s staff as its WR coach. Shortly after, Parker was arrested, and East Carolina rescinded its job offer.

Parker was jobless for three months before Duke’s David Cutcliffe gave him a chance.

“Everybody has made mistakes,” Cutcliffe told The Herald Sun. “This is one I felt very strongly about. This was an outlier. There are trends. There are people that have issues. He’s not one of those.”

After serving as an offensive operations assistant, Parker was promoted to coach Duke’s wide receivers — and the group impressed in 2018 with three players eclipsing 30 catches. Senior wideout T.J. Rahming recorded 75 catches and 811 receiving yards, which ranked fifth and tied for third, respectively, in the ACC. Fifth-year senior Johnathan Lloyd had 51 receptions for 604 yards, while classmate Chris Taylor tallied 31 catches for 419 yards.

Meanwhile at Penn State, only one player had more than 26 grabs in 2018: KJ Hamler, who recorded 41 catches for 754 yards.

It helped that Duke’s wideouts were catching passes from Daniel Jones, a possible first-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft. But Trace McSorley is no slouch. Penn State’s all-time leading passer saw his completion rate plummet to 53.2 percent in 2018 from 66.5 percent in 2017. A part of that was inconsistency on McSorley’s part; new offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne had a hand in the passing game struggles, as well. But it’s no secret that drops plagued Penn State’s wideouts all year long, and Corley — Parker’s predecessor — was at fault.

Juwan Johnson, a freakishly athletic pass-catcher with first-round buzz in the preseason, never came close to living up to that. Brandon Polk went from a reliable upperclassman to a liability, and DeAndre Thompkins had just two catches of 30 yards or more after being the Nittany Lions’ primary deep threat in ‘16 and ‘17.

Now, Hamler was vocal on Twitter after Corley’s firing a day after Penn State’s Citrus Bowl loss to Kentucky. “It’s on us that we dropped the passes,” the redshirt freshman wrote.

But Corley was never going to work in Happy Valley. The former Penn State assistant started his coaching career in 2004 and never oversaw receivers in back-to-back seasons for the same program. Last year, Corley coached Army’s receivers — a group that had 10 catches in 13 games. Plus, he was originally hired to be Penn State’s running backs coach. Then, two weeks later, Ja’Juan Seider came aboard, and Corley was moved to the wide receiver room.

With the Corley experience over, Franklin and the Nittany Lions have an actual wide receivers coach in Parker, baggage notwithstanding.

Penn State wide receiver Juwan Johnson talks about his time on the sidelines this season, and coach James Franklin says he's excited to see what he can do in Citrus Bowl.

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