University of Missouri

Blue Springs’ Daniel Parker is switching positions for Mizzou football

Drew Lock talks about Daniel Parker as a tight end

Missouri quarterback Drew Lock talks about the Tigers new tight end Daniel Parker and what the Blue Springs product has brought to the offense.
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Missouri quarterback Drew Lock talks about the Tigers new tight end Daniel Parker and what the Blue Springs product has brought to the offense.

Daniel Parker was one of Missouri’s top recruits in its 2018 signing class, and he’s a good enough athlete that he not only believes he can switch positions, but sports.

“In his mind, he can go play for Cuonzo,” said MU football coach Barry Odom, who doesn’t want the freshman leaving the football offices for Mizzou Arena. “He can’t. He was a good basketball player, though.”

The Tigers are hoping he will be a good tight end, too. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Parker did not play the position in high school but has recently begun practicing it for Missouri. The Blue Springs grad started preseason practices as a defensive linemen, and with the potential to make an impact among an unproven group of defensive ends, he recently said this August had consisted of “no waiting around,” just “playbook, playbook, playbook.”

The rush to learn is even greater now that he is playing an unfamiliar position.

Mizzou’s coaches moved him to tight end after the position group battled injuries during training camp. True freshman Messiah Swinson tore an ACL, and redshirt freshman Logan Christopherson recently suffered a concussion.

The Tigers’ have their top two tight ends in all-conference selection Albert Okwuegbunam and senior Kendall Blanton, but they need depth — especially if their new pro-style offense includes a fair amount of two-tight end packages.

“So we were just looking for some big body types that could maybe help us,” offensive coordinator Derek Dooley said. “He looks like he’s got some skillsets to do it.”

Parker, who has changed from No. 52 to No. 96, played with the Tigers’ second team offense on Thursday, so he seems to have already jumped ahead of sophomore Brendan Scales on the depth chart for tight ends. Odom said his staff will decide within the next few days whether to keep the freshman at his new position.

The only member of the “Tiger 10” to stay instate for his college football career and sign with Mizzou, Parker played offensive and defensive line for Blue Springs. His high school head coach, Kelly Donohoe, said Parker has the catching ability for tight end and that the Blue Springs staff considered moving him. But the team’s personnel, along with his blocking ability, made him more of an asset at offensive tackle.

“He’s really physical,” Okwuegbunam said. “... Right now, it’s about picking up on the schemes and all the little details of the plays.”

Blanton, who graduated from Blue Springs South, said Parker is writing down everything tight ends coach Joe Jon Finley says in meetings. That’s what Donohoe expects from a freshman who has “always been beyond his years in terms of his football IQ.”

“He will have no problem,” Donohoe said. “And playing offensive tackle next to tight ends all the time, he knew what the tight end was doing. He’s a quick study. He’s athletic. And he’ll catch about anything thrown to him.”

The freshman must improve his route running, but if he’s as good of an athlete as Odom claims, that might not take too long. His hands are already proving to be OK.

“He had a ball thrown to him today, and he caught it,” quarterback Drew Lock said earlier this week. “So he’s 1 for 1.”

Blue Springs native Daniel Parker, on Aug. 14, 2018, talks about his first week in Missouri’s preseason football camp and what has helped him stand out so early.

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