KU linebacker Steven Parker dubbed one to watch during 2020 season
photo by: Nick Krug
Kansas linebacker Steven Parker recently made an appearance on a list of redshirt freshmen poised for breakout seasons — a list that also includes players from powerhouse programs such as Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas and Auburn.
Parker, who played four games during his true freshman season, made 247 Sports analyst Chris Hummer’s list of under-the-radar players who could make a big impact in 2020. The fact that the 6-foot-4, 225-pound outside linebacker was able to redshirt in 2019 is a good sign for the Kansas program, Hummer wrote.
“In past seasons, the four-star recruit and the Jayhawks’ top overall player in the 2019 class would’ve seen the field instantly,” Hummer wrote. “Instead, he played in four games and occasionally flashed, including earning a pressure against Oklahoma.”
A top prospect out of Dallas’ South Oak Cliff High, Parker earned several player of the year honors during his junior and senior seasons in high school and was ranked in the top 20 nationally at his position.
He made his college debut in KU’s win at Boston College and played in two of KU’s next three games before sitting out until the season finale against Baylor.
Talented players redshirting is nothing new in college athletics. But the relatively new rule that allows players to preserve their redshirt option while still playing in up to four games can benefit players like Parker, who have talent but face competition in their first year for playing time.
Parker likely would have gotten more playing time if not for a strong senior season from the player who started ahead of him at KU’s “Jack” position — Azur Kamara. Kamara led the Jayhawks in sacks with 3.5 and also ranked sixth in total tackles. But with Kamara now in the NFL, Parker has the opportunity to shine.
“Parker, who plays with a great motor and had huge production in high school, is exactly the type of player who can go on to star at Kansas,” Hummer wrote. “Expect him to play a big role for the Jayhawks next season as the defense’s moveable edge piece, perhaps emerging as the team’s top pass rusher.”
Although the 2020 offseason has been anything but normal, the small dose of on-field experience in his first year should have Parker much more comfortable heading into his second.
During camp last August, KU coach Les Miles praised Parker for delivering “really, really excellent work” during practices. And Parker is just one of a talented group of linebackers — a position Miles believes could be a strength of the Kansas defense in 2020.
“We might be pretty good at linebacker,” Miles told the Journal-World this spring.
Other notable names in the linebacker room include seniors Dru Prox and Denzel Feaster, junior Jay Dineen and sophomore Gavin Potter.