It has been seven years since Louisville had a 1,000-yard receiver. Not coincidentally, that player -- Harry Douglas -- was a product of the Bobby Petrino system.
So now that Petrino is back, expectations are rising for senior DeVante Parker to break the long 1,000-yard receiver drought. Perhaps the most talented player on the Louisville roster, Parker opted to come back to school for his final season.
Now, he stands to benefit more than most. Not only does the 6-foot-3, 209-pound Parker have exceptional size and speed, he is in a system that will allow him to flourish. Where the defensive-minded Charlie Strong preferred a strong ground game, Petrino wants to -- as defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins says -- “let it rip.”
You saw that in the spring game last Friday, when Petrino had his first-team offense go against the second-team defense, and did not allow any pressure to the quarterbacks. Not only did Will Gardner have a monster game (32-of-37 for 542 yards, four touchdowns), Parker had 10 catches for 109 yards -- and a 66-yard touchdown that was called back because of a penalty.
While the defense did not put up much of a fight in the spring game, the philosophical shift to a high-flying offense means Parker should surpass his career-best totals of 55 receptions for 885 yards, set as a first-team All-AAC performer in 2013.
What’s more, he is a hard worker and a student of the game, always trying to perfect his skills. Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee has taken special note of Parker during quarterback-receiver meetings, diligently taking notes in the back of the room.
“I think his God-given ability makes him special to the public eye. What makes him special to me is his commitment to show up every day and grind,” McGee said. “This kid works hard every day. There was a scrimmage out there, and he turned his ankle and he limped around for a few minutes and got right back in. That type of commitment is what makes him special to me. He’s really committed to getting himself better. He’s constantly trying to figure out how to be an expert.”
On the topic of getting Parker to 1,000 yards, McGee fully acknowledges the potential is there. But …
“I do have a theory about numbers,” McGee said. “If you have your focus on a number and you don’t see yourself getting to that number, you’ll stress out and that’s when you end up with a slump. I try to push him to get better. Don’t shoot for a number. Because you know what? Why is the number not 1,700? You play every snap like it could potentially be your last snap and at the end of the season we’ll count the numbers up.”