Parker is ranked the No. 114 overall prospect and No. 21 defensive lineman in the 2023 class and the No. 8 rising junior from the state of Alabama, according to the industry-generated 247Sports Composite. He's also a Top247 prospect in 247Sports' rankings.
He was born in Knoxville, and he tweeted last week about his upcoming visit to Tennessee, saying at the time that he would be "in my hometown" on Tuesday and Wednesday. He's also scheduled to visit Georgia this weekend.
Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas A&M are the four schools currently standing out to him, he said, among his dozen offers. But he said the trip to Tennessee this week improved his opinion of the Vols, and he enjoyed meeting defensive line analyst Levorn Harbin, defensive line coach Rodney Garnerand other members of Heupel’s staff.
“It helped them,” Parker said. “They’re on the rise. They’re coming up with my top schools.
“I can’t wait to build my relationship even more with Coach Chop and Coach G, so I’m excited for this,” he added, referring to Harbin and Garner.
Parker didn’t live in Knoxville long after being born there, but he said he still returns on a fairly regular basis to visit his relatives who live there. He said his family connection to Knoxville could help Tennessee, and it doesn’t hurt that some of his relatives are Vols fans who like the idea of Parker playing at Tennessee.
“My mom’s whole side of the family still lives there, so we visit a lot,” he said.
“She grew up there. She didn’t leave until, like, she went to college. She didn’t really get into sports, but my whole, entire family, most of them are Volunteer fans. They would love for me to go to Tennessee. But they’re family. They’ll follow me wherever I go.”
Parker said he recently started getting to know Harbin, and he spent plenty of time with both Garner and Harbin during his trip to Knoxville this week.
“I was with Coach G, and I was also with Coach Chop,” Parker said. “They’re my guys right there. And then I was also with (recruiting coordinator) Dre (Brown). He went around with us, too, showing us around, and a few of the recruiting directors. We enjoyed ourselves.
“They said I could play strongside defensive end. They really like my film, and they really, really like me. They want me to come up there and visit again and get some work in with them eventually.”
Garner’s 30-plus years of experience as an SEC assistant coach and his track record of producing NFL defensive linemen caught Parker’s attention.
“It shows that he puts players in the League, no matter what team he coaches for, so that’s a big deal to me,” he said.
Visits to Florida and North Carolina stood out the most to the 2023 four-star defensive end from Phenix City (Ala.) Central and he’s looking forward to a Sept. 11 trip to Tennessee when the Vols host Pitt. Parker is also planning to hit up numerous SEC and ACC schools this season.
“Tennessee, they didn’t end up coming out with the win, but it was still a great game, and the fans were going crazy and they really love Tennessee. They were showing that love, and you could just feel it through the air. I really enjoyed it. …
“It was better than what I expected, for sure — a lot more fans, and it was a lot more exciting.”
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Parker said he was encouraged by the way the Vols played against Pittsburgh, even in a 41-34 loss to the Panthers.
“I just like how Tennessee, they kept playing,” he said. “They kept playing hard, and they had a few injuries that happened in the game, and they didn’t miss a beat.
“They have some potential on the D-line. There’s always room for improvement, and looking at it, talking with (defensive line) coach (Rodney) Garner, he’s definitely doing a good job recruiting, trying to get more players to come and to coach up his guys that he has now.”
Parker said he “mostly” watched Tennessee’s defensive line and outside linebackers throughout the game.
“Of course, I want to see them win,” he said. “But the main thing I’m looking at is coaching and how they can develop me onto the next level. … I saw the outside linebackers, but just mostly D-line. You could tell they’re coached very well. They’ve still got more work to do, of course. Everybody can improve somewhere. They’re young, so that’s one thing.”
But Saturday’s game also showed Parker that he could have an opportunity to make an early impact on the Vols’ defense under first-year coach Josh Heupel’s staff.
“That’s always been in my head, and they told me that more than once,” Parker said. “And I’ve been taking consideration of that.”
Parker said he spent time with some of Tennessee’s coaches — including defensive line analyst Levorn Harbin, Garner and Heupel — both before and after the game and even got another brief tour of the campus and facilities.
“I talked to Coach Chop before the game, and Coach Garner,” Parker said. “And then after I talked with Coach Garner and then Coach Heupel. After the game, we toured the school again, so got to talk with them and ate some pizza or whatever.
“They really said I was a special player. They would love to have me on the defense. I’d fit right in. They said I could play early, and they want me to be a leader and come join the Vols.”
It’s a possibility he’s considering, although he’s not rushing to decide on a college. But after getting a scholarship offer from the Vols more than eight months ago and visiting them twice, he said Tennessee is currently high on his list.
“It definitely is,” Parker said. “I’ve still got more time, but they’re an option, for sure.”
The Vols have shown him plenty of attention since college coaches were allowed to begin contacting Class of 2023 prospects on Sept. 1. That includes Martinez’s trip to Phenix City for Central’s home game Sept. 3 against Smiths Station (Ala.) High School.
“Every few days, (they) call or text me, see how I’m doing, how we’re doing in practice and keeping up with who they play every week,” he said. “And they came down. Coach Martinez came down last week to see me play. I mean, I couldn’t talk to him, of course, in (person). … I found out the morning of the game that he was coming. I was excited to hear about it.”