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Monday, February 11, 2013
Coach talk: DT Parker Cothren

By Josh Moyer

What kind of player is Penn State getting here in Parker Cothren? And what can fans expect?

NittanyNation turned to one of the people who knows best what Cothren is capable of on the field -- Matthew Putnam, his high school coach at Hazel Green (Ala.) -- and asked what separates him as a player, how he first noticed Cothren's ability and when he especially showcased his potential.

DT Parker Cothren, Hazel Green (Ala.), 2 stars, No. 122 at position
6-foot-5, 265 pounds

Putnam, on what separates Cothren from other players at his position: "Well, first off, it's his size. He's a 6-5, 265-pound athlete. He runs well, he's really agile for being so big,  and he's as mean as a rattlesnake. He's very aggressive but, most importantly, he's just a great kid, too. And he does what coaches ask him to do. He doesn't take plays off, and he runs in straight speed. He's an all-out player."

When he first knew Cothren would be special: "My first year as head coach, Parker was a sophomore, and we had T.J. Smith, who's now playing at Western Kentucky, so everyone ran at Parker the first few weeks of the season. But by Week 5, everyone stopped running at Parker and started running at T.J. -- not because T.J. wasn't good, but because Parker was dominating at his position and they couldn't get anywhere. We knew then he was a D-I player and could play anywhere in the division.

"He wasn't nearly as a big then, probably 6-3 and 230. But he's such a competitor that he couldn't get blocked. People were putting their best blockers on him, and Parker was still getting a mismatch every week. He would use the right technique and, by his senior year, people were seeing what side he was on so they could run away from him. They were checking their play away from Parker."

When Cothren surprised him or really showcased his ability: "Well, he had lots of good plays in his career. He's a phenomenal player. But, this year when we played Bob Jones -- they've won our region several times in a row and they've always beaten us really bad. And I've only been here three years, and this year the score was 0-0 in the first quarter. Bob Jones had the ball going into score, maybe first down on the 2-yard line, and Parker came through the line and it was like he hit the running back with a sledgehammer. It was a game-winning play; we recovered the fumble and took it back 98 yards for a touchdown.

"We won 42-14; I don't know if it would've been different without that scoop and score. Parker hit the kid really, really hard. The shot on the highlight doesn't look as bad as it was. It almost sounded illegal -- like a car crash, too. ... His most impressive performance was against Huntsville's Grant Hill [ESPN's No. 1-rated offensive guard in the 2013 class], who committed to Alabama. We game-planned and thought, 'Should we put our worst guy on him, or should we put Parker on him and see who's the better player?' And Parker did a good job. We won 24-3, and I think Grant didn't finish the game because he hurt his ankle, but Parker did a very good job against a very good lineman."