William Parker, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound former basketball player, who UAB snared out of the transfer portal, joins the mix of offensive linemen looking to fill a spot in a group that returns no full-time starters.
What spot is he looking to compete for on the offensive line?
"All five," Parker said, "I can do whatever."
The past two seasons at Tennessee, he spent some time at guard and tackle on both sides of the offensive line. The athletic and versatile Parker said he worked a little at center but spent most of the time at the other positions on the line. He played in two games as a true freshman in 2021 and did not see any game action this past season.
Needless to say, he's a big addition for Trent Dilfer and the UAB program. Parker was a three-star recruit out of Pearl-Cohn High in Nashville. He was part of a football team that made two deep runs in the Class 3A playoffs, including a championship game appearance in his junior season. He was also a starter on two basketball teams that were among the tops in their division.
"Hey, I got sweet feet now," Parker said with a laugh. "We made it all the way to state two years in a row, district champs and semifinalists. I started basketball first, before football."
Football turned out to be a better option for his future. By the time he was a senior at Pearl-Cohn, his reported offers included Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio State and Oklahoma. He chose Tennessee partly because of his relationship with then-assistant coach Tee Martin, whose son had played youth baseball with Parker, and the early diligence of then-assistant coach Will Friend.
"It was a wild year," Parker said. "I got recruited by (Jeremy) Pruitt and came in with (Josh) Heupel. It was a whole new world for me. Coming from high school, straight into head coach gone, new head coach. It was like I didn't know what's going on."
After his second season, Parker said he had a discussion regarding his future with offensive line coach Glen Elarbee. He said the two came to an agreement.
"He loves me, I love him, I love being a team player," Parker said. "I'm always a team guy first. He was like, 'You're too talented to be sitting down somewhere. Go get the opportunity to actually be on the field.' He's one of those guys. He doesn't hold you back from being great in life. If that means I got to give you away to go be great, I got to do that."
One of the first calls he got after entering the portal came from Dilfer. The Blazers needed offensive linemen, particularly experienced ones, but they also had a previous relationship.
"I met him in Nashville when I was in high school," Parker said. "He coached at Lipscomb, around the corner from Pearl-Cohn. I used to train at Lipscomb a lot. His assistant coaches used to coach me in AAU basketball. I was also at Lipscomb a lot. I saw his daughters a lot. I saw Trent a lot. I kind of built a relationship with him. He saw a big, athletic kid. The man he is, he'll come mess with you, talk to you. Trent was always out there."
In some ways, because of that relationship, his recruitment ended about the time it started. He took an unofficial visit to UAB in early January, liked what he saw and enrolled for the spring semester. He is one of two former SEC players, joining outside linebacker Desmond Little, who are signed, enrolled in school and nearly a month into working as a member of the UAB football team.
Parker is also one of what is expected to be several offensive linemen coming into the program. Junior college transfer Jalen Nettles signed with the Blazers in December and is already in school. Freshman Alfonzo Leomiti also signed in December. Wednesday's National Signing Day signees for UAB could include several more offensive linemen. The Blazers have commitments from high school offensive linemen Delano Townsend of Flint, Michigan and Mason Chorak of Scottsdale, Arizona. There could be other linemen sign with the Blazers today.
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