Walker Parks is the prize in recruiting battle between UK, national powers
Just about every year there's a recruiting tug-of-war between Kentucky and national powers for at least one player from the Commonwealth. Sometimes it happens more than once in a class, but rarely much more than that.
Walker Parks, a Class of 2020 offensive lineman and a Kentucky legacy, will be the latest in a line of Kentucky prospects who will have to decide between staying home with the Wildcats or leaving the state to forge a new legacy.
David Parks, Walker's father, played his college football at Kentucky and had an extended conversation with Cats Illustrated over the weekend.
Here's the conversation in full.
Cats Illustrated: We know that Walker was at one of Kentucky's camps last weekend but what has the rest of his summer looked like so far?
David Parks: It's been busy. You know, we've run around to a couple of places. We were at Ohio State yesterday. We've got Tennessee that asked him to come down on Thursday but I don't know if we'll be able to make that trip because we've got Notre Dame this coming weekend. We're trying to balance a little more this summer. Last summer we went to a lot of different places. We had like 19 total camps. This summer we've gotten a lot more focused. We're trying to go to schools where he's got an interest. We went to Clemson the first week of June and Kentucky's camp as well.
Cats Illustrated: We noticed that Kentucky's coaches and everybody there were giving him lots of attention. What kind of relationship have they built with him and you guys, and how have they been recruiting him so far?
Parks: They made him feel really welcome there. They've really got a good relationship with them. Obviously Coach (John) Schlarman and I played together back when I was at Kentucky a long time ago. We have a personal relationship. Freddie Maggard has taken over as their player development guy, and Freddie and I played together, of course. We've got some good history that makes it really comfortable for us. We've spent a lot of time there over the years so that makes it a very easy place for us to go.
Cats Illustrated: Everyone we've talked to has said that Clemson is a school to watch out for when it comes to Walker. How much truth is there to that and what did you all think of that visit?
Parks: Yeah, it was a really good trip. Both of us really appreciate how Coach (Dabo) Swinney coaches, as well as Coach (Robbie) Caldwell, their offensive line coach. We went down there, took the family down there, and we stayed away from it. We were letting Walker do his thing for a couple of days ... We got a place on the lake for a couple of days. Because of my history, especially with Kentucky, there's a shadow. We wanted him to see what he could do. We literally dropped him off and left and let him do his thing and he had a really good camp. He really impressed the coaches. We weren't expecting him to get an offer from Coach Swinney but that was a really good thing for him. That was all him. It wasn't me talking to anybody. I didn't know any coaches there. I've got no relationships there. That was 100-percent him. That meant a lot to us that he was able to do that.
That coupled with Clemson is a school that's been playing for national championships and they've got a strong winning tradition and culture. Coach Swinney has done a great job with his players and the emphasis he puts on the total player and not just the football aspect, how they approach things like they do with young men. I think they really made an impression on Walker. That's definitely going to be a place of consideration for him. He wants that type of environment and he hit it off with Coach Caldwell. He hit it off with him. He's more old school, the kind of coach I remember playing for. He's a really unique personality and the kind of guy you can sit down with and talk to for hours. Your children are some of your biggest assets and to know that's the kind of guy you'd be sending them off to would mean a lot.
Cats Illustrated: What about Ohio State? Was that a similar experience or what were your takeaways from that?
Parks: Ohio State was a good experience. It was the first time they had ever seen Walker. They hadn't laid eyes on him before. There's a lot to do to try to get noticed. You know, when you're at a camp they have a recruit group that they're really watching closely and they didn't have him in the right group initially. They did become very impressed with him. Then he had a one-on-one with Coach (Urban) Meyer and he really enjoyed the conversation they had. He said they don't typically offer kids at those camps but they really like him and liked what they saw. He expects to be back in touch. I could see us going back to visit. It's not too far, it's Columbus. We may take in a game this fall. But there's more ground to be made there. We haven't spent any time around Ohio State. Same with Clemson. I don't have any connections at either one of those places.
Cats Illustrated: When coaches are looking at Walker and telling you guys what they're impressed with, what are they saying?
Parks: I think the challenge that we've had almost everywhere we've been is, they've talked about his weight because he's only about 250 or 255 pounds. You see a lot of kids who are already 285-295 pounds. But he's a very athletic kid. He moves very well. He ran a 4.9 yesterday (at Ohio State). He does a lot of stuff athletically that kids who are 40 or 50 pounds heavier can't do. They can't move the way he can move. This is the thing that Clemson likes. His body mechanics, the way he can move his hips, the fact that he can pass set either side. They started him at left tackle and liked him so they moved him to right, then they had him moved to guard and Coach Caldwell said at every set he just dominated because of his athleticism. When he was talking to me he brought up his weight and I thought it would be the typical, 'He needs to gain a few pounds,' but Coach Caldwell was just the opposite. He said, 'We're not going to have to take 30 pounds of fat off. As long as he continues with his athleticism and flexibility the way it is now he's going to be a dominant player.'
We were at LCA the last couple of years and you're running a no huddle offense where you're trying to snap it every six seconds and playing both ways, for him to be 290 pounds that's just not going to happen. We're building his body the right way.
We have made the transition to Frederick Douglass which is really good because it's the same terminology Kentucky runs. As a matter of fact we're going to be at Kentucky on Tuesday morning just to see how they do things, some of the vernacular and techniques they use.
Really, for someone as big as he is to move the way he does, and to add for 40 pounds (is the goal). We figure this year he'll play at the 255-260 mark as a junior. By the time he's a senior he'll be 280-285. realistically by the time he rolls into college as a freshman at 285, he gets into a training program and he's 295-300. He's going to be very athletic and a mobile big man. That's only going to benefit him. He's doing it the right way. A lot of times kids who get that big have to work on the quick feet to catch up to their body. He's kind of doing it the other way. His body's progressing in line with his athleticism and he's able to move, he's agile and he's flexible.