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July 9, 2013

Position Preview - Starting RB

Before Jordan Parker came to the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, he was a standout running back at Collins High School in Georgia. As a junior Parker started to show some promise at the position, rushing for 443 yards and six touchdowns with an average of just under seven yards per carry.

Parker had his coming out party during his senior season after leading his county in rushing with 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns. He capped it off with an additional 450 receiving yards.

Despite his impressive senior campaign, offers from top school did not come pouring in for Parker. He did, however, land a slew of offers from Middle Tennessee, Air Force, Delaware, Elon, Ohio, Old Dominion and Richmond. At the time of his commitment, Parker told GoMiddle.com that he was leaning heavily towards Ohio, but the Blue Raiders' offer made him rethink things. Ultimately, the chance to play closer to home was the deciding factor, and the Blue Raiders got their man.

At the start of the 2012 season, it was my personal thought that it would probably be best to redshirt Parker for his first year. I am a fan of redshirting freshmen who would likely not make immediate impacts on team, and despite a solid showing during fall camp, I did not think Parker was going to be that guy off the bat. Boy, was I wrong.

Parker would see action from the start of the season. Against McNeese State, fans got to see just how high the Blue Raider coaches were on Parker as he got the majority of the carries after RB Benny Cunningham left the game with an injury. Parker ran for 39 yards in his debut, but it was the next week where fans got to see what he could really do, when Parker ran for a team-leading 117 yards on just 17 carries against Florida Atlantic.

After the FAU game, Cunningham returned from injury, which resulted in limiting Parker's carries, but when Cunningham suffered a season-ending knee injury against FIU, the door opened for Parker again, and again - he did not disappoint. The freshman got the starting nod against Mississippi State and ran well against the tough SEC defense finishing the game with 13 carries for 66 yards - an average of 5.1 yards per carry. Parker solidified his role as the starter, and went on the have one of the most impressive freshman seasons in school history. Over the last five games of the season, Parker exploded for 572 yards on 111 carries. Over a three-game stretch that included rival Western Kentucky, South Alabama and Troy, Parker averaged over 140 rushing yards per game.

For the season, Parker tallied 851 yards, a Sun Belt Freshman record, and three TDs, en route to being named to the Third Team All-SBC by Phil Steele and to the SBC All-Freshman Team.

Now that the 2013 season is getting closer, Parker is unquestionably the No.1 guy in the backfield for Middle Tennessee. Being placed in a new conference has not made him the popular pick for running back of the year in C-USA, but Parker is primed to surprise a lot of people during his sophomore campaign.

During spring practices, Parker continued to show improvements. In the first scrimmage of the spring, he ran for 56 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries while also fielding four passes for another 39 yards. Parker was awarded as the most improved strength training running back during the Spring Game, which came as no surprise after adding 20 pounds of mass in the offseason.

Barring any setbacks in 2013, I can see Parker rushing for over 1,000 yards, easily, so long as he gets the majority of the game-snaps and only rests when he is tired. Parker's numbers will regress, however, if his carries get clipped by, what is becoming, a very talented backfield. With that said, I believe that Parker is everything you could want in a running back - with the power to compliment the speed and the willingness to learn and improve. His biggest areas of concern last year were in the blocking department, but he already showed improvement in that area during the spring and is expected to do so again when fall camp starts up. When the holes in his game get filled up, Parker will be one of the more complete backs in the southeast, let alone C-USA.



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