IOWA CITY, Iowa — First-year Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker isn't planning any major changes for the Hawkeyes next season.
Most Iowa fans probably like the sound of that.
Parker spoke with reporters Friday for the first time since coach Kirk Ferentz announced he'd been promoted from defensive backs coach to replace longtime defensive coordinator Norm Parker (no relation), who retired after 13 seasons.
Norm Parker's defenses were relatively simple schematically, yet they typically ranked among the best in the Big Ten. In fact, the Hawkeyes finished in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense from 2008-10 before an inexperienced unit slipped to 46th in 2011.
Norm Parker told Phil Parker that he's got to run the defense his way. But Phil's unit will probably look a lot like Norm's since it's been so successful over the past decade and a half.
"I don't know how much is going to be different," Phil Parker said. "When it comes down to it, you're still teaching fundamentals, and it's going to come down to getting off blocks and making tackles and keeping guys from scoring."
Phil Parker, 48, was a three-time All-Big Ten defensive back for Michigan State in the mid-1980s. After one season as a graduate assistant with the Spartans, Parker spent 11 seasons as the defensive backs coach at Toledo prior to joining Iowa's staff in 1999.
He spent the past 13 seasons working for Norm Parker, who generally used four linemen and three linebackers up front and didn't blitz much. Iowa was essentially a bend-but-don't-break defense under Norm Parker, and usually it didn't break.
Phil Parker said the Hawkeyes will still use a 4-3 front and likely won't blitz much more than they have in the past.
"One thing Norm did is, he did keep it simple. And sometimes with these offenses and the way they are now in the Big Ten — which 28 years ago they weren't like this when I was playing — they've definitely changed," Phil Parker said. "The more they change and the more formations they give you, there's a lot more gymnastics as far as getting guys lined up and how to play."
Parker's first order of business will be to replace a number of key starters from a unit that paled in comparison to recent Iowa defenses.
Linemen Broderick Binns and Mike Daniels, linebacker Tyler Neilsen and cornerback Shaun Prater are among those that have departed the Hawkeyes, who gave up an uncharacteristic 23.8 points per game in 2011 and finished a disappointing 7-6.
There will also be ample pressure following in the footsteps of Norm Parker, whose sharp mind for the game and easygoing charm made him a fan favorite in Iowa City.Comment on this story
"It's your job. You're the one in charge and you've got to do it your way," Phil Parker said. "If I can just be myself and do what I do, we'll see where it goes from there."
Parker's promotion was just one of several changes to Iowa's coaching staff in the offseason, which went through by far the most turnover in Ferentz's 13 seasons as coach.
Ferentz recently announced last week that former Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis will replace Ken O'Keefe, who left to join former Ferentz assistant Joe Philbin with the Miami Dolphins.
"The one thing about change is, it really brings out opportunity. I really feel good about the people that have joined the staff," Ferentz said. "I think the thing that's most impressed me about Phil is what I've had a chance to witness firsthand. Thirteen years of doing a great job with secondary."