Welcome to the 10th article in the “Focus in” series. Today we’re taking a look at former Air Force offensive tackle Parker Ferguson. We’ve already touched on a number of players and you can read those by clicking the names below. As always I hope you enjoy and if there is a prospect you’d really like covered, then drop their name in the comments below.
Parker Ferguson is one of the more interesting UDFA signings as he’s a bit of an unknown. Growing up in Greenwood Indiana Parker attended Center Grove High School where he didn’t start playing football until his Junior year due to inflamed growth plates in his hips. When he did run onto the football field, he did so as a defensive end. At 6’2 and around 230lb’s in high school, Parker was an imposing figure for most QB’s to work around.
A 2* athlete and ranked the 4054th best prospect in the country, Ferguson took his talents to Air Force, the only FBS program that offered him a chance to play. He would however need to switch positions, Air Force had a full allotment of defensive ends, but needed offensive tackles.
As soon as he landed on the Air Force campus in 2017, he immediately switched positions from defensive end to offensive tackle and spent the majority of the 2017 football season getting used to his new position. It could have been daunting, but Ferguson took it all in stride and looked at the positive aspects of never having played the position before:
“I think really the main thing with me is I came in with a blank slate and took in all the coaching I could,” Ferguson said. “I didn’t have any bad habits from high school or techniques I had to break or anything like that. I was fresh and I just focused on trying to be as athletic as I could possibly be when I showed up here and just let the coaches mold me into how they needed me to play.”
One thing to mention early here is the offensive system that is run at Air Force. Ferguson played all three years under Head Coach Troy Calhoun and offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen. The Falcons run a triple-option offensive system and primarily run it out of the Flexbone formation (image below). Troy Calhoun spent time working under Gary Kubiak in Denver and then again in Houston when Kubiak hired him as their offensive coordinator. Kubiak himself came up coaching under Mike Shanahan and there were a lot of similar principles in Air Force’s system that we’d see under a Kubiak/Shanahan type of offense, when it comes to zone blocking. So keep that in mind.
That’s the positive. Here’s the main drawback and probably what kept Ferguson off most draft boards. During Parker Ferguson’s three-year career with the Falcons, Air Force averaged less than 10 pass attempts per game. So as far as pass-blocking goes, Ferguson is still raw and inexperienced. However, he also plays with excellent leverage and balance, and has vast amounts of experience with zone-blocking in the run game.
Ferguson slotted straight in at left-tackle in 2018 starting the last 10 games of the season and helped anchor a line that put up 283.5 rushing yards per game, the best number in the conference and 5th nationally. As a red-zone offense, they also scored on over 91% of possessions which was the 9th best mark in the country. Ferguson had gained around 50lb’s between landing on campus in 2017 and making his debut in 2018. Although offensive line coach Steed Lobotzke wanted to trim Parker back down heading into the 2019 season to regain some athleticism, the sophomore had made quite the impression:
They’re smart,” Lobotzke said. “The biggest thing is they’re willing to ask for help. ‘What do I have to do to get bigger? What do I need to do to get stronger?’ They ask for help and advice, then they follow the advice and next thing you know they’re in the starting lineup. They’ve got gifts, of course. They’ve got natural talent. But talent’s not enough anymore in college football. It takes talent and it takes work ethic and the humility to go ask somebody for help.
“They’ve got all those intangibles.”
2019 followed in the same vein as 2018 with Air Force dominating the trenches on the offensive side of the ball. Air Force ranked 2nd nationally in rushing yards a game at 298.5, while allowing just 4 sacks all season, the lowest total in college football. Although he was listed as the starting left tackle, the Air Force official website also states that he spent time at both guard positions. The reviews for Ferguson after the 2019 season were extremely positive, he was seen as not only a dominant lineman for Air Force, but one of the better lineman in the conference as a whole.
2020 may have been Parker’s best season for Air Force as he started all six games and was named to the First-Team All-MWC as he dominated in the trenches with his run-blocking and athleticism with blocking on the move. Before the season began he was named to the watchlist for the Outland Trophy which is awarded to the best offensive lineman and is currently help by Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood.
Following the 2021 NFL draft where Ferguson went undrafted, he signed on with the Jets who have several connections to Air Force. Zane Lewis a defensive back who played with the Falcons spent the 2020 season on the Jets practise squad. Jake Moreland who’s the assistant offensive line coach with the Jets was a wide receivers coach with Air Force, and Chip Vaughan who was the secondary coach at Air Force between 2018-2019 is now an assistant with the Jets.
It’s really hard to project Parker in the pro’s because I haven’t seen enough of him in pass-blocking sets, but he certainly has a ton of experience as a run-blocker in zone schemes. It’s likely the Jets will be looking at him inside rather than out at tackle. Let's hope the Jets can find a few UDFA steals as part of this class.