The next great Wildcat cornerback: Jacob Parrish

A celebratory scream is let out during the 42-13 win against Troy by cornerback Jacob Parrish. Parrish recorded three tackles and two pass breakups in the win, taking his stats to six tackles and three pass breakups through two weeks. (Julia Smith | Collegian Media Group)

Very few players received higher praise in the offseason than cornerback Jacob Parrish. Defensive coordinator Joe Klanderman and head coach Chris Klieman spoke highly of the true sophomore, with Klieman calling him a “really really good football player.” Two weeks into the season their praise was confirmed.

Parrish opened eyes with his aggressive play style in both the run and passing game, collecting six tackles and three pass breakups in two games. Parrish earned a 80.6 PFF Grade, first among all Big 12 corners, allowing six catches on 15 targets for only 33 yards. His play has shown through statistics and again has led to praise from his coaches.

“I can’t say enough about Jacob Parrish in the pass game,” Klieman said after the win against Troy. “Jacob Parrish was phenomenal today covering very good receivers.”

The Wildcat secondary has gone up against two large wide receiver rooms in SEMO and Troy with each team consisting of receivers sprouting over 6-foot. The 5-foot-10 183 pound starter has had zero concerns with his height disadvantage.

“Me, I don’t personally care how tall a receiver is,” Parrish said. “I’m gonna do what I got to do at the end of the day.”

Trouble against size would not be the only question mark placed on Parrish and the Wildcat secondary. Entering the season, no K-State cornerback had amassed a single start for K-State with fellow starter Will Lee III transferring from Iowa Western Community College. 

“I kinda take it personal with a chip on my shoulder,” Parrish said about those doubting them. [I am] Showing everybody I can be out there, and I don’t fear nobody at the end of the day.”

Parrish was impactful as a freshman even without starting once. He played in all 14 games but also played the majority of the Big 12 Championship, recording four tackles and a pass breakup.

“I thought he did a tremendous job as a freshman saying, ‘Okay, I know I’m not quite where Ekow [Boye-Doe] and Julius [Brents] are, I’m gonna keep learning and then take whatever reps I can get and make the most of those,’” Klieman said. “As the season went on, he got more comfortable knowing our defense, more comfortable of knowing what offense is due.”

Parrish spent last season behind the veteran cornerback duo of Brents (second-round draft pick by the Indianapolis Colts) and Boye-Doe (practice squad member of the Kansas City Chiefs). Now, as a starter, he is matched up with the 6-foot-3 sophomore transfer in Lee.

“I feel like having us, with my length and then having him with him being more of a veteran in the defense helps a lot,” Lee said.

Even though Parrish believes he’s not become a “vet yet,” the sophomore has led with guidance and his play on the field.

“He brings a lot, he’s a great corner,” Lee said. “He really helped me along the way, just coming in here and having the transition. He’s a great corner, he’s a great physical guy, he’s really locked in on his technician.”

Parrish’s play has caught his own eye as well. He knows that even being a freshman producer, he has still grown mightily.

“I feel like last year I was out there kind of just playing fast, not knowing where my help is at,” Parrish said. “It’s a lot easier this year.”

Improvements on knowing who is where is not satisfying Parrish. The corner is ready to be even better, claiming to get the errors against Troy “correct next week.”

“I feel like just me being confident out there,” Parrish said about making himself better. “Know[ing] I can win my one-on-one and then just me being more of a vocal leader.”

Parrish and Lee will have a tougher challenge to test their play against Missouri on Saturday. The Tigers are home to the No. 1 offensive recruit of the 2022 in wide receiver Luther Burden III. Burden has leaped in the season spectacularly, reigning in nearly 50% of Missouri’s receiving yards. Standing at 5-foot-11, Burden possesses a different playstyle than wide receivers Parrish and Lee have faced while still not being considered a smaller guy by Klieman.

“We need to know where he’s [Burden] at at all time because he’s one of the premier players in the country,” Klieman said.

Burden will be amongst the many talented outside weapons Parrish will face in his career. The potential for his career to be filled with success and accolades was something that some saw from the start.

“We thought he was a phenomenal recruit coming out of high school that just needed an opportunity, and we gave him the opportunity because we saw him at camp and he dominated our camp when he was here,” Klieman said. “And then I saw him take off in the spring, saw him take off during the fall. … He put on some muscle mass, put on some weight. I think the sky’s the limit for him because I think he is one of the special corners in the conference.”