Lions hire wide receivers coach
Penn State hired a new wide receivers coach Thursday, while a former coach who held that position with the Nittany Lions took a lucrative job at Michigan.
The new receivers coach is Gerad Parker, who once served as interim head coach at Purdue and most recently spent two seasons as receivers coach at Duke.
Parker replaces David Corley, who was fired the day after the Lions lost to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl, following a disappointing season by PSU’s wideouts.
Parker has a drunk driving arrest on his record from nearly two years ago, and he’s scheduled for trial next week on that.
Meanwhile, former PSU receivers coach Josh Gattis was hired to be Michigan’s offensive coordinator. Gattis left Penn State a year ago to become receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator at Alabama, and he went through an interesting day Thursday.
Gattis initially was linked to the offensive coordinator job at Maryland early Thursday. But a few hours later, the situation had changed and he was hired by Jim Harbaugh to take over Michigan’s offense.
Here’s a closer look at each move:
SUBHD: Parker hire
“We are excited to add Gerad to our staff,” James Franklin said in a PSU statement. “He has a comprehensive background and knows the Big Ten. He is a terrific fit for our staff, university and community. He has a great opportunity to come in and make a significant impact both on and off the field with a very talented position group!
“Gerad played wide receiver in the SEC and has shown he is a great teacher of the position, as well. His wide receiver groups have been able to overachieve throughout his coaching career.”
Parker spent four seasons at Purdue from 2013-16, coaching tight ends and then receivers. When the Boilermakers fired head coach Darrell Hazell midway through the 2016 season, Parker took over as interim head coach. Purdue went 0-6 under Parker’s watch, including a 62-24 home loss to PSU.
Parker’s career then hit some turmoil.
He was hired to be the running backs coach at Cincinnati for the 2017 season. But he resigned in February of that year and was expected to become receivers coach at East Carolina.
However, he was arrested in Indiana on Feb. 21, 2017 and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated. His blood-alcohol level was above .08 but below .15, so it was a misdemeanor charge.
East Carolina decided not to hire him because of the arrest.
A few months later, though, Duke coach David Cutcliffe gave Parker a second chance and hired him as the Blue Devils’ receivers coach. Parker spent the past two seasons in that role.
“Everyone has made mistakes,” Cutcliffe told reporters in North Carolina when he hired Parker. “This is one I felt very strongly about. This was an outlier. There are trends. There are people that have issues. He’s not one of those. I have zero concern.”
Parker’s trial has been delayed numerous times since his arrest, and it currently is scheduled for Thursday.
Parker set the Kentucky high school record for receiving yards with 4,814 and received a scholarship to Kentucky. He battled injuries throughout his college career from 2000-04 and played only one season, catching 15 passes for 168 yards in 2004.
Parker was an assistant at Kentucky, Tennessee-Martin and Marshall before going to Purdue.
“I am extremely humbled and honored to have the chance to join the Penn State football program,” Parker said in a PSU statement. “I am so thankful to Coach James Franklin and the entire coaching staff. We as a family are certainly very excited to be a part of a place that has been built with such a passion for football and with such a storied history.
“Coach Franklin has done great things at Penn State and has high expectations of where this program can go. Personally, I feel I have been called on this Earth to coach wideouts and help grow men, what better place to do that than Penn State, a place that is high in talent and has a chance to compete for championships.”
SUBHD: Gattis to Michigan
Gattis was with Franklin at Vanderbilt from 2012-13 and came to Penn State along with the head coach in 2014. He spent four seasons with the Lions and was regarded as an excellent receivers coach and recruiter.
Last January, Gattis left PSU for Alabama, and he helped the Crimson Tide reach the national championship game this season.
Mike Locksley, the Tide’s fellow co-offensive coordinator, is leaving to become head coach at Maryland. And for much of the day Thursday, the thinking was that it was a done deal Gattis would become Maryland’s offensive coordinator.
Then things changed in a hurry, with a late-afternoon announcement that Gattis had been hired by Harbaugh to be Michigan’s offensive coordinator.
“The offense and passing games under Josh’s direction have achieved at a very high level throughout his coaching career,” Harbaugh said in a university statement. “Josh will provide leadership to our offense while being a great mentor to our student-athletes and an outstanding addition to our coaching staff.”
Gattis will have a chance to turn around and modernize Michigan’s offense, and if he does so, will be a major challenge for Penn State in the Big Ten East.
“It is an honor and a privilege to join the University of Michigan football family under Coach Harbaugh, one of the most successful head coaches in all of football,” Gattis said in a university statement.
“I am deeply humbled by the opportunity to serve as your offensive coordinator. This is the leadership challenge I’ve coveted. The football tradition at the University of Michigan is among the very best in college athletics. My family and I couldn’t be more excited to arrive in Ann Arbor.”