Gerad Parker officially introduced as Notre Dame offensive coordinator
SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame football head coach Marcus Freeman said the more than two-week long search for his next offensive coordinator expanded nationally across the college football landscape. Ultimately, his guy, Gerad Parker, was already on his coaching staff.
Parker, hired by Freeman last year as Notre Dame's tight end's coach, was officially introduced as the new Irish offensive coordinator Monday afternoon. Parker, 42, takes over for Tommy Rees, who departed his alma-mater for play-calling duties on Nick Saban's staff at Alabama.
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"We put (Parker) through a long, tough interview," Freeman told reporters Monday. "What he was able to display to me was his understanding of the terminology and our offensive philosophy the past year. (And) also the vision of how he can enhance it with what he has done and what he believes it takes to be successful as an offensive coordinator."
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The Parker and Freeman relationship dates back to 2016 when they were on staff at Purdue. Parker ended up serving as interim head coach for the final six games of that season.
Parker last held play-calling duties during a two-year stint at West Virginia from 2020-21, when he served as the Mountaineers' offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach. Many of West Virginia's offensive numbers, including red zone offense and scrimmage yards ranked among the top-30 in college football under Parker's guidance.
Last season, Notre Dame ranked 60th in total offense (396.2 yards per game) and 33rd in points per game, both numbers that Parker has goals of surpassing.
"We want our guys to take care of the football," Parker said. "We want them have effort and physicality and play with great details to make our plays work."
Under Parker's tutelage in 2022, consensus All-American tight end Michael Mayer continued his progression into a potential top 10 NFL Draft pick in 2023.
Mayer, who now owns every major statistical record for the the position in program history, had an outstanding junior season. The Independence, Ky. native led the team in receptions (67), receiving yards (809) and receiving touchdowns (nine). Only running back Audric Estime scored more (12 TDs).
Even with Mayer's dominance, Parker focused on development of backup tight ends Holden Staes who played in 11 games and Mitchell Evans who returned from injury mid-season and was worked into an effective short-yardage package as a runner after taking the snap from center. Evans rushed seven times for 11 yards and a touchdown.
When Mayer opted out of the playing the 2022 Gator Bowl to focus on the NFL Draft, Evans stepped up to catch three passes for 39 yards from QB Tyler Buchner, including a 16-yard touchdown with 1:38 left in the game to beat South Carolina, 45-38.
Now that Parker is in charge of the whole offense and said he will lean on his experience with Rees and other colleagues along the way, his own experience as a past play caller and certainly his staff.
"This offense moving forward is a collaborative effort, but it certainly falls on my name first," Parker said. As coach Freeman said, we see this our structure looking very familiar to a lot of things within the organization. ... But there's ways we can enhance what we're doing and take a step in our passing game or our run phase or how we operate against highly-loaded boxes in the run game.
"All of those things will come up, but the motivation moving forward will be what can our players do best and how do we make the ball go forward and gain yards and score points."
While not exactly a long-shot to land the role based on his previous experience and history with Freeman, Parker emerged as the choice after Freeman admitted that two other candidates Utah's Andy Ludwig and Kansas State's Colin Klein both turned it down after interviewing in South Bend.
Through that process Freeman had his tight end coach's ear until the interviewing process turned to Parker. About halfway through the interview, Freeman said his mind was made up and he had found his guy.
Now Freeman and Parker turn their attention to hiring a quarterbacks coach — Wisconsin assistant Gino Guidugli (who coached with Freeman at Cincinnati) is expected to be named — and an offensive line coach in wake of Harry Hiestand's abrupt retirement on Super Bowl Sunday.
Parker, meanwhile, insists he's up to this challenge.
"Nobody is more charged to do this job than I am," Parker said. "Every morning I wake up from this point forward I'll put my feet on the ground and make this the right hire for coach Freeman and everybody in this organization."
The Gerad Parker file
- Hometown: Louisa, KY
- High School: Lawrence County High School
- College: Kentucky (2003, B.S.; 2005, M.S.)
- Wife: Kandi
- Children: Daughters – Kolbi, Gwyneth and Rosalyn; Son – Oliver
- 2000-04, wide receiver, University of Kentucky
- 2005-06: Raceland HS Wide Receivers/Defensive Backs
- 2007: Kentucky Graduate Assistant
- 2008: UT Martin Running Backs
- 2009: UT Martin Wide Receivers
- 2010: UT Martin Wide Receivers/Passing Game Coordinator/Recruiting Coordinator
- 2011-12: Marshall Wide Receivers
- 2013-14: Purdue Tight Ends/Recruiting Coordinator
- 2015-16: Purdue Wide Receivers/Recruiting Coordinator
- 2016: Purdue Interim Head Coach
- 2017: Cincinnati Running Backs
- 2017: Duke Offense Operations Assistant
- 2018: Duke Wide Receivers
- 2019: Penn State Wide Receivers/Passing Game Coordinator
- 2020-21: West Virginia Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers
- 2021 West Virginia Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers
- 2022 Notre Dame Tight Ends
Kentucky ( 2007 Music City Bowl); Marshall (2011 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl); Duke (2017 Quick Lane Bowl and 2018 Independence Bowl); Penn State (2019 Cotton Bowl); West Virginia (2020 Liberty Bowl and 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bowl); Notre Dame (2022 Gator Bowl).