Clemson's Parker ready for double duty again


Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Sophomore Kyle Parker is on a football scholarship at Clemson, but he might be more easily recognized by fans when he's wearing his No. 25 jersey -- his baseball uniform -- instead of his No. 11 quarterback jersey.

That might change this spring.

Parker, the son of former NFL wide receiver Carl Parker, enrolled in Clemson last January after graduating high school early, and immediately made a name for himself as a first-team All-ACC baseball player. He started 55 games and hit .303 with 44 runs scored, 12 doubles, 14 home runs and 50 RBIs. On the side, he happened to be going to spring football practice every day.

This year, there will be a bit more emphasis on spring football, as the graduation of quarterback Cullen Harper leaves the position wide open -- and Parker at the heart of the competition.

"To be able to compete for the job, he's gotta be there," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "Obviously football is paying the bills, but he's here to do both. It's in my and [baseball] coach [Jack] Leggett's best interests that we work out a good schedule for him, and I'm real comfortable with what we've got resolved."

Parker isn't the only ACC quarterback who will be pulling double duty with baseball this spring, and it's no easy feat considering how strong the conference is (North Carolina, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida State are all ranked among Baseball America's preseason Top 25, and Miami and NC State are both consistent championship contenders).

The three quarterbacks playing both sports are each at different points in their career. NC State's Russell Wilson is a returning starter at quarterback, and also a second baseman for the Pack, Florida State's D'Vontrey Richardson was a backup quarterback last year but moved to safety recently and is an outfielder for the Noles.

This year, because he's competing for a starting role, Parker said he is feeling a bit more pressure from the football staff to be around this spring. After all, he was the No. 4-ranked quarterback in the country, according to Scouts Inc., and he was recruited by Swinney.

"It's definitely a little more important for me to be out there than it was last spring when I was mainly at baseball the whole time," Parker said. "But I'm going to get an opportunity to actually try and compete. It will be tough having to divide my time, but the coaches from the football team and the baseball team are doing what they can to make it a little easier on me.

"It's definitely a dream of mine to play college football. That's what I had in mind when I came to college here, I wanted to come here and start for Clemson and win some games. I still enjoy playing football. I waited all last year for an opportunity to go out there and win some games."

Parker will have to win the job from Willy Korn, who progressed from a shoulder injury during bowl practice, but isn't quite 100 percent yet. Michael Wade and Jon Richt (Georgia coach Mark Richt's son) will also be given an opportunity to compete for the job, and Swinney isn't ready yet to tell any of them "you're the guy."

"We'll resolve that on the field in a competitive situation," Swinney said. "But just from a starting point, Willy will be the first guy going into spring ball to get the first crack with the first team."

Parker isn't expected to miss a minute of the 15 spring football practices, and will only miss two baseball games at Boston College. (He'll fly out after football practice on Saturday, though, and join his teammates in Chestnut Hill for Sunday's game). Parker said there are about eight days where he'll have to double up with football practice and a baseball game in the same day.

"Our baseball coaches didn't even know what they were getting in him," Swinney said. "Here's a guy that makes freshman All-American and first-team All-ACC as basically a high school senior. He's very talented. He's just one of those guys that has it. It's hard to play two sports. You have to be a guy like Kyle Parker to be able to pull it off. He just gets it. He's got that stuff the great ones have and he'll be able to manage. If anyone can do it, he can."