Dec. 24, 2010
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's Christmas Eve and University of Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker is happy he can be AWAY from home for the holidays. Nothing against Parker's family and friends, but when you're a college football coach...
"That's the way it's supposed to be," Parker said Friday after the Hawkeye practice at Corona del Sol High School. "If you're doing alright in football, you're supposed to be gone for the holidays and you're supposed to be working."
Parker and the Hawkeyes are definitely working. Friday marked their third practice since arriving in Arizona for the Insight Bowl and the preparation and toil is showing on the practice field.
"Some days we look very good and some days we've looked a little shaky, but it's like that all the time," Parker said.
Iowa (7-5 overall) is getting ready for No. 14 Missouri (10-2) on Dec. 28 in Sun Devil Stadium. While Missouri's defense has gained attention for leading the nation in red zone scoring percentage (54.8 percent), the Parker-led Hawkeyes have a thing or two to hang their hat on as well. Iowa is seventh in the nation in scoring defense (16.42 points per game, one position below Missouri's 15.17), tied for sixth in rushing defense (103.50 yards per game; Missouri is 57th at 146.92), and 15th in total defense (317.08 yards per game; Missouri is 41st at 350.67).
"We're coming along slowly, but surely," UI senior All-American defensive end Adrian Clayborn said. "We're getting certain things done and practices have been going well since we've been down here."
"We're getting a lot of work done," senior defensive tackle Christian Ballard said. "We have to stay focused and know this is a whole-week process and everyone has to stay grounded and know that we are playing against a great team. Everybody is feeling pretty good right now."
Not only has the return of Parker been a boost to the Hawkeye defense, but the Hawkeyes will also receive a boost with the return of senior linebacker Jeff Tarpinian. In seven games this season, Tarpinian has compiled 44 tackles, two sacks and forced a fumble.
"I'm fully expecting to play. I'm feeling good out there," Tarpinian said. "I'm excited. I feel a lot stronger, the trainers are doing a great job, so I'm excited."
There was a familiar face at practice. Former defensive line coach Ron Aiken, who is now defensive line coach for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, stopped by to greet friends and former players.
"They will do well (against Missouri) because you have defensive coaches that have played against a lot of different offenses," Aiken said. "One thing about Norm and the guys...they've done it all, they've played against spread offenses, so they'll do a good job causing problems for Missouri."
Aiken worked with Parker when they were at Vanderbilt, and then again with the Hawkeyes from 1999-2006. While at Iowa, he coached future professionals Aaron Kampman (Jacksonville), Derreck Robinson (Cleveland), Colin Cole (Seattle), Matt Roth (Cleveland), and Jonathan Babineaux (Atlanta).
With sun shining bright and temperatures creeping into the mid-70s, it was perhaps the nicest of any day in Tempe since the Hawkeyes arrived Dec. 20.
"It's nice being out at practice, especially a day like today," Parker said. "It's easier than shoveling snow."
The Iowa offense enters the spotlight following practice Christmas Day when UI offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe and four student-athletes will meet the press.