South Panola head boss Lance Pogue has coached several big time backs in his coaching career, most recently Tig Barksdale. But he believes the Rebels are getting something special in "Big", as they call him in Batesville.
"I think this kid's future is unlimited," added the matter of fact South Panola head coach. "We are talking about a guy that is going to be 225 to 230 pounds at Ole Miss when he matures. The thing that people do not realize about Nick Parker is that he has tremendous speed. You see him bang and plow over people and you think he is just this big power back. And then bam, he goes 80 yards on you the next play. He had an unbelievable amount of long rushing TD's for us over the last three years. People do not understand that this game is physical, and when you get into the SEC, you have to be able to not only take a lick, but give a lick and keep going. That is what you are going to get in Nick. He breaks tackles and then he gets into your secondary and he takes it the distance. I still have not seen him caught from behind yet."
Parker broke on the scene as a junior when he took over the tailback duties from Darius Barksdale. Tig broke the state Class 5A rushing record the year before with 2, 908 yards while helping his team to its 4th straight State Championship and earning Mr. Football in the state of Mississippi.
No problem. Nick just stepped right in and the Tigers never missed a beat. He rushed for 2, 500 yards and 26 TD's in the 2008 campaign. It was the second most rushing yards in the history of Class 5A. Parker, along with Vincent Sanders, were the only juniors in the state of Mississippi that were selected to 1st Team All-State squad for all classifications.
Parker entered his senior season with high expectations, but a leg injury occurred during two a days that slowed him up for the first half of the season. But once the injury healed and Nick got more comfortable with the injury, from a mental and physical aspect, he exploded during the "money" season as he rushed for over 800 yards during the playoff stretch and ended the season with 1, 679 rushing yards and 22 TD's. And most importantly, he helped the Tigers to its third state championship title during his four year stay at South Panola.
Coach Pogue had a hard time comparing him to any one certain tailback on the next level, but he knows his style is tailor-made for the SEC.
"He has a unique running style. I always thought of Nick as a one cut runner and down hill runner. He is not going to do all of this juke and jiving. When he adds some more strength and bulk to him at Ole Miss, running down hill like he does, he is going to be a load to handle. He is more of what the SEC is going to now, a one cut runner, and then get into your secondary. These players are just so fast now in the SEC. Your Dexter McCluster's are just unique in their own sense too. There just are not too many who can do that. The SEC has gone to backs who go North/South like the pro backs do. That is exactly Nick's style so I think he fits that league to a tee."
What attracted Nick to Ole Miss?
"They are just having a lot of success over there. He is a running back too, and he knows Coach Nutt is going to want to run the football and usually features his tailback. Nick realizes there are going to be a lot of opportunities to run the football at Ole Miss. You also have to look at the proximity and Tig (Barskdale) being over there. He also has a close relationship with his grandmother and Oxford is only 15 minutes down the road so he can go back and forth and check up on her when ever he needs to. That is another thing that people do not know about Nick. He is even a better person than he is a football player. He is just a special kid. But I think all of those factors combined made the difference for him. Nick just thought Ole Miss was the best fit for him."
Who else was involved in his recruitment?
"He had scholarship offers from LSU, Tennessee, USM, MSU, and Tennessee but I think the Vols and Southern were the schools he was looking at the hardest outside of Ole Miss."
South Panola is trying to get away from its reputation as a school that yearly churns out blue chips prospects but has a hard time getting them qualified. Coach Pogue has had a big hand in the academic turnaround for the Tiger program.
"We fully expect Nick to qualify. You know, we had a black eye on this program when I got here for not having our players qualify. I think we have gone a long ways to change that here. I am proud of what we have done here . The perception and culture has totally changed around here. We have a great plan in place for these kids now, and we get them started on it early enough where they are not scrambling around to qualify. This program had a lot of issues with that, but like I said, the culture has totally changed around here, and I am just proud to be a part of it."
Yancy Porter is the Recruiting Manager for the State of Mississippi and he can be reached at email@example.com