Penn State’s next receivers coach is a former Big Ten interim head coach who led one of the more productive groups of wideouts in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season.
Former Duke receivers coach Gerad Parker, who led Purdue as its interim head coach for the final six games of the 2016 season before a whirlwind 2017 that eventually led him to the Blue Devils, will take over as the leader of the Nittany Lions’ young, talented receiving corps that struggled throughout the season with dropped passes.
He replaces David Corley, who helped mold freshman All-American K.J. Hamler and a slew of other true freshmen in 2018 before getting fired Jan. 2.
At Duke, Parker helped receiver T.J. Rahming to second-team all-ACC accolades. Duke wide receivers accounted for 2,252 of the Blue Devils’ 3,199 yards through the air, more than 70 percent of the Blue Devils’ receiving yards, during Parker’s one season leading the group.
“He has a comprehensive background and knows the Big Ten,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said of Parker in a statement. “He is a terrific fit for our staff, university and community. He has a great opportunity to come in and make a significant impact both on and off the field with a very talented position group. Gerad played wide receiver in the SEC and has shown he is a great teacher of the position, as well. His wide receiver groups have been able to overachieve throughout his coaching career.”
Purdue’s tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator under former head coach Darrell Hazell, Parker is a former receiver at Kentucky who is best known for those six games in 2016 when he took over the Boilermakers after Parker’s hiring. That included a 62-24 loss to Penn State at Ross-Ade Stadium on Oct. 29 that year, the week following Penn State’s upset of then-No. 2 Ohio State at Beaver Stadium. The Boilermakers nearly pulled off a season-ending upset of rival Indiana, but Parker was not retained on the staff when Jeff Brohm took over as Boilermakers head coach following the season.
The pursuit of his next job, however, took some twists and turns, and it included a brush with the law.
In January 2017, Parker agreed to become running backs coach at Cincinnati, a job he resigned from less than a month later after emerging as the frontrunner to become receivers coach at East Carolina.
But Feb. 21, 2017, West Lafayette, Ind., police charged him with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated at 11:30 p.m. after he was seen driving the wrong way down a one-way street.
He was released without bond, but shortly after, East Carolina rescinded the coaching offer. That led Parker on a months-long job search that wound up with his hire that June at Duke, where he became an offensive assistant on veteran head coach David Cutcliffe’s staff.
“Everybody has made mistakes,” Cutcliffe told The Herald Sun in Durham, N.C., after hiring Parker. “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. I have zero concern. I know he’s comfortable with it, and I’m comfortable with it, that as we move forward that will not be any issue whatsoever.”
A Kentucky native, Parker set high school receiving records in the Bluegrass State (238 catches, 4,814 yards and 52 touchdowns) before going on to become a four-year letterman at Kentucky. He earned two degrees at Kentucky, a bachelor’s degree in business management in 2003 and master’s degree in education in 2005.
“Coach Franklin has done great things at Penn State and has high expectations of where this program can go,” Parker said in a statement. “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?”