"If there was anything we did well as a staff, it was looking at a kid and projecting," he said. "We went after a lot of tight end-type guys, 6-5, 250. Josh Parrish, Rien Long, Dorian Boose, Leon Bender -- they were all high school tight ends."
Long, Boose and Bender starred on the defensive line at WSU. Boose and Bender were taken in the second round of the NFL draft and Long went in the fourth round after winning the Outland Trophy. Parrish became a first-team All-Pac-10 offensive lineman.
LEON BENDER: 2nd-team All-American in '97.
He points to his legendary Palouse Posse defenses of 1993 and 1994 as more proof of the power of projection. Three of the linebackers (Ron Childs, Mark Fields and Anthony McClanahan) were high school running backs, and three of the defensive backs were high school receivers or running backs (Singor Mobley. Torey Hunter and John Rushing).
The projecting piece of the recruiting equation goes beyond what position a prospect will play. It also extends to how much raw potential you see in a kid, he said.
"Torey Hunter, Marcus Trufant, Will Derting, Erik Coleman, Raonall Smith, James Darling and so many others ... they weren't rated golden nuggets, but in our evaluations they were blue chippers," Price said. "Derting and Darling weren't being recruited by anybody. Bill Doba picked them out in summer camps."
Price said three other factors helped construct his successes at WSU: grayshirting, utilizing the Prop 48 rule, and holding youth summer camps around the state.
"I think we invented the term grayshirt," Price said. "Raonall (Smith) came to our camp before his senior year of high school and broke his arm and missed the season. We liked him and said we'll give you a scholarship if you delay enrollment. Bill (Doba) was real influential is making this happen.
"With the Prop 48 kids, we'd take two or three a year and it worked because our academic support was strong. We knew they could be successful."
Among Price's Proposition 48 success stories were Bender, Boose, Chad Eaton, Brandon Moore, Deron Pointer and Nian Taylor.
As for the youth camps, they were so successful in giving the Cougars a foothold in Western Washington that Husky coach Don James petitioned the Pac-10 to implement a rule that no school could hold camps outside their campus. As a result, the Pac-12 is one of the only major conferences prohibiting off-campus clinics and camps.
This year, for the first time in four decades, Price isn't on the recruiting trail. He retired in November.
In a wide-ranging conversation about recruiting, here's what else he had to say ...
ON THE TALENT IN TEXAS: "I think you're going to get a more polished player from Texas than other regions because of the early development and the resources put into coaching and facilities. But you have to measure the polish, because you might get a guy who has maxed out his potential whereas in other areas you might find a guy who doesn't look as good but has unlimited potential. That's more of what we did at Washington State – find guys with potential and then coach them up."
ON THE BIGGEST PROSPECTS HE LOST AT THE END OF THE RECRUITING PROCESS: "Oh man, we worked really, really hard, with Mike Levenseller being instrumental, on Troy Polamalu. He was a small-town kid in Oregon, a real family-oriented kid, who we discovered at our camp. We thought we had him, and then his uncle (former USC player and now USC offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu) got USC after him late ... Jake Plummer was another one we lost late. I needed to do a better job -- Mark Rypien, Drew Bledsoe and Jack Thompson were seen as the prototypes of what a Washington State quarterback looks like and Jake was a scrambler. I should have done more, made tapes of our play-action and things like that, to convince him how we'd take advantage of his skills. We also had a problem on his official visit. The airline lost his luggage and all he was wearing was a t-shirt and hat … Teddy Bruschi was one, too. We were in on him first. He was undersized so a lot of schools shied away initially. His official visit didn't go well – he didn't like it. I think bad weather had something to do with it."
CHAD CARPENTER, nearly a Wildcat, scores at USC in 1995.
ON THE CHALLENGES OF RECRUITING TO PULLMAN: There's the weather during recruiting season. It's cold, and transportation can be disrupted ... When you have to shovel a path to get onto the football field it can leave the wrong impression… You'd like to bring all your kids in for visits in the fall -- the weather's nice, the geography is beautiful, and you have all the game-day energy and enthusiasm. But it's hard to get guys here in the middle of their high school seasons. It's a real disadvantage. Look at the U of W. I bet some prospects attend four or five games a year and take in some practices – all unofficially – because they live so close by. In the two-county area around Pullman you have only 50,000 people; there aren't many players to choose from. At WSU, we spent more money on recruiting than Washington simply because it's expensive to get people to town."
ON CONSTRUCTING HIS TYPICAL CLASS AT WSU: "You start with a combination of Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, British Columbia, and Calgary. You get around eight guys from Washington, two each from Alaska and Western Canada, and one each from the other places and you're two-thirds done. Then you head to down to California to fill it out. We didn't do too much in Oregon, the Ducks and Beavers had it pretty well locked up. And in Idaho at that time, Boise State wasn't a factor so we had success there."
DREW BLEDSOE guided the Cougs to a 9-3 record and No. 18 ranking in 1992.
Dec. 7, 2002: After clinching a Rose Bowl berth with a win over UCLA, Mike Price gets a congratulatory hug from Calvin Armstrong. The victory was Price's 83rd, and last, at Washington State.