A couple of days ago I watched the newest video of the Rutgers offseason workouts.
Suffice to say I was ready to run straight through a brick wall.
Recently, Rutgers released even more content of offseason workouts, this wave of videos highlighting the "Mat Drill"
This is a level of energy and excitement previously unknown in the program and it is all because of one man: Kenny Parker.
Parker has extensive experience in big-time college football programs which is clearly a huge advantage. In addition to his CFP National Championship ring from his time at Ohio State, Parker has been a part of National Championship programs in 2006 and 2008 when he was an assistant at the University of Florida. He was also a defensive tackle for the Gators from 2000-2004 and an assistant until 2009. All of his years as an assistant at Florida were spent under Urban Meyer and were during one of the most dominating eras in recent college football. The Gators' dominance was on the scale of USC in the 2000's and Alabama as of recent.
After leaving Florida for a stint at Murray State, Parker was hired as an assistant at Ohio State in January of 2012. Parker worked as a strength assistant for 4 seasons at Ohio State before he joined Chris Ash at Rutgers. Although this is first job as a head S&C coach and he is just 33, Parker brings 14 years of experience in big-time college football to Rutgers, where a winning culture like there is at Florida or Ohio State is needed.
Parker's importance to this team can be best described in a quote from Chris Ash:
If I didn't think I could get Kenny Parker with me, I might not have taken the job. It was that important of a hire for me.
It wouldn't be a surprise if fans didn't know who the previous S&C coach, Jeremy Cole was, as I had to look him up this offseason to learn his name. However, just about all Rutgers fans know who Kenny Parker is, and he is establishing his own brand at Rutgers, "Kenny Parker Tough," or simply #KPTough
Personally, I've never seen a S&C coach have his own brand established in college sports, let alone at Rutgers. Before Kenny Parker, lifts and workouts were just another monotonous and necessary set of motions the team would go through to stay in shape. So far, they have been a source of excitement for the team and the biggest way of getting fans involved and amped up for the upcoming season. Workout videos have been going viral on Twitter and fans and players were introduced to the "Saint Valentine's Day Massacre" workout.
Additionally, a new YouTube channel has been established, dedicated exclusively to these workout promo videos of the Chris Ash/Kenny Parker era.
It is clear that Kenny Parker is a special individual who is looking to revolutionize the role of strength and conditioning in the Rutgers Football program. He helped start a brand new nutrition program, that was nonexistent i with Kyle Flood and Jeremy Cole in charge.
In the grand scheme of things, strength and conditioning doesn't seem very important for the success of a football team. However, Kenny Parker is the most important assistant coach on this team.
Establishing the Culture
When a new coaching staff comes in, the only access they have to players is in meeting rooms and in offseason workouts. There is no practice or pads or practicing plays. The weight room and the bubble are what the coaches have to work with. Both of those places are like Kenny Parker's dojos and he is the man in charge. He is making the most of his resources there and he is the most important figure in the program in regards to establishing the culture at Rutgers. He is spending the most time coaching them and the one most involved in their workouts. As you can see in the videos, he is in the middle of everything and the one running everything.
It is clear that Rutgers needed to seriously get big to join the B1G. There is still evidence of a lack of size, specifically on the defensive line. With the exception of nose tackle, Rutgers was at a serious disadvantage against the brutal o-line competition in the B1G. There was too much shuffling around of guys that just weren't big enough, such as Quanzell Lambert and Kemoko Turay. That doesn't fit the style of play Chris Ash wants. Ash wants size on the d-line, and the responsibility falls onto the broad shoulders of Kenny Parker. Can Darius Hamilton get up to a respectable interior lineman playing weight? Can Kemoko Turay finally look like a defensive lineman and not a wide receiver? Can Myles Nash complete his massive weight gain from his freshman year? These are all questions that Kenny Parker will have to answers with yes's across the board come fall practice.
So far, Parker has excelled in his image to the fans. I haven't heard one bad thing about Parker and his workouts have fans excited for the season. I think its pretty impressive that videos of his workouts are getting so much attention. In addition, his plan for the team helped secure a huge donation to build new facilities that will be primarily used for strength and conditioning. Rutgers is advertising his "brand" as Kenny Parker Tough and that is something that the fans seem to be latching on to. It is important that he continues to help get fans excited and involves, even though he may have no idea what he is doing, since he is just doing his job.
Kenny Parker was Chris Ash's first hire for a reason and we are slowly starting to see why. Parker could be one of the people most responsible for the turnaround of this team, as he has completely overhauled the strength and conditioning program. It will be interesting to see Parker has any new tricks up his sleeve as offseason workouts soon transition into Spring Practice