University of Missouri

Why Blue Springs’ Daniel Parker will be more than just a blocker for MU this year

Daniel Parker on playing tight end

Mizzou tight end and Blue Springs graduate Daniel Parker talks about his upcoming seasons.
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Mizzou tight end and Blue Springs graduate Daniel Parker talks about his upcoming seasons.

When they first started practicing, Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant could see that tight end Daniel Parker had played on the defensive line.

Parker still had some fat on him from his days on the other side of the ball and didn’t look the part of a pass catcher.

Now Bryant is trying to come to terms with the fact that Parker was working with the defensive line a year ago before Messiah Swinson tore his ACL, which led to his current position.

“I didn’t believe that he had never played tight end before,” Bryant said. “He looks like a natural tight end. The ceiling is high for him.”

Parker looks like a tight end in preseason camp after losing 20 pounds. In 2018, Parker emerged as a future star and was dubbed by offensive coordinator Derek Dooley as “a blocking phenom.” A two-way lineman at Blue Springs High School, Parker was a natural blocker because of his previous background, but had to pick his spots in the passing game.

The 6-foot-4 tight end was playing at 270 pounds, more like the weight of a defensive lineman. Parker said earlier this week that he weighs 247 and has transformed his body to give him more quickness. As a freshman, Parker caught six passes for 63 yards and a touchdown, but had to catch passes when he was in open space because of his limited knowledge of the offense.

Even though he was chosen to the coaches’ all-Southeastern Conference freshman team, Parker went into the offseason undecided on whether to stay at tight end or move back to defensive line. Parker said he is done playing musical positions.

“It feels like I came here for tight end,” he said. “Like they molded me into tight end. This is my position, this is who I am. I’m a tight end.”

Parker is currently listed as the Tigers’ No. 2 tight end behind star Albert Okwuegbunam but is expected to get plenty of snaps at a deep position that also includes Messiah Swinson and Brendan Scales. Parker said he expects to contribute to the passing game more than last year.

“He’s a really prideful young man,” said A.J. Ofodile, MU’s tight ends coach. “He’s going to do whatever you ask him to do from a work standpoint. He was dominant for us in the spring. The thing I’m proudest of is his route running.”

Parker said he’s grown the most at the top of his routes, where he can break faster and get separation from a defender. Parker, who played basketball in high school, said he wasn’t able to show off his athleticism as much because of his frame. His weight loss has changed that.

“His athleticism is showing up a little bit more because he trusts his knowledge of the playbook,” MU coach Barry Odom said. “(He’s) improved in the pass game, having really good experience from last year carry over.”

Bryant, Albert O, Elliott back

After losing Kelly Bryant (hamstring strain), Albert Okwuegbunam (knee sprain) and Jordan Elliott (unspecified) to injury during Monday’s practice, all three players fully participated in Wednesday’s practice.

“They’re close to full health,” Odom said. “I know they were anxious to get back out there. They’re hungry for us to be a really good team.”

Bryant said he took a weird fall on Monday and wasn’t sure what was wrong with him, which is why he pulled himself out of practice for precautionary reasons. Bryant said everything checked out with the medical staff, which allowed him to return on Wednesday without issue.

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Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.
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