A college coach on one level or another for more than 30 years, Mike Price expects to move quickly in securing a talented group of coaches to assist him at Alabama. "I'm currently putting a staff together," he said Wednesday at the press conference introducing him to the Alabama media. "I'll bring some coaches from Washington State with me, and I am sure that some will stay there."
The question, of course, is which ones will make the move and which ones will stay?
Former coordinators Bill Doba (defense) and Mike Levenseller (offense) are out of the picture. The 62-year-old Doba has been elevated to head coach, and Levenseller is expected to remain on board in his same job and as the Washington State heir-apparent. Former defensive line coach Rob Akey will take over from Doba as Defensive Coordinator.
Though no formal announcements have been made, at this point it's expected that at least two Washington State assistants will follow Price to Bama. Kasey Dunn, who served the Cougars as Assistant Head Coach, Running Backs Coach and also Special Teams Coordinator is likely to switch jobs. And Coach Price's younger son, Aaron, will almost certainly make the move as well.
Dunn is a former Idaho Vandal receiver who earned first-team All-America honors twice. He played for Houston in the NFL and both British Columbia and Edmonton in the CFL. Dunn began his coaching career at his alma mater before moving on to San Diego. He then coached two years at New Mexico before joining Price at Washington State. Dunn is 34 years old.
Born in Pullman, Price was a kicker for his father and Washington State. After college, Price saw brief action as a kicker with the Edmonton Oilers and Sacramento of the World League. Besides Washington State, Price has coached at Cal Poly, Missouri Western and Idaho State. His coaching specialties are placekickers and punters. This past season he handled kickers and quarterbacks for Washington State. Price is 31.
Chris Ball (secondary), Bob Connelly (offensive line) and Robin Pflugrad (tight ends and Recruiting Coordinator) have also been mentioned as possibilities for the Tide, though at this point their status remains unclear. Ball, who served two coaching stints with Mike Price, is from the Midwest and graduated from Missouri Western State. Connelly, a native of Dallas, Texas, coached at San Jose State before joining Price at Washington State.
Well known on the West Coast, Pflugrad was an All-American receiver for Portland State. Before joining Price as Recruiting Coordinator at Washington State, Pflugrad worked at Arizona State in the same capacity. Pflugrad is known as a top-notch evaluator of talent, but his lack of ties to the Southeast might keep him on the West Coast.
Price will be faced with the crucial task of hiring two coordinators. Names like Jeff Rutledge, a former Tide and NFL quarterback currently coaching high school football, have been mentioned for the job of offensive coordinator. And Price's older son, Eric, currently working as quarterbacks coach for the New York Jets would be an interesting choice.
But Coach Price brings a national reputation for innovative offensive schemes with him to Tuscaloosa, so few are particularly concerned about his offensive hire. On the other hand, Tide fans are extremely interested in who will be brought in to handle the Bama defense.
At his press conference Wednesday Price acknowledged that he was "very interested" in Bama's most recent D-Coordinator, noting that Carl Torbush had a well-deserved national reputation for coaching defense. Torbush and Price know each other and are apparently at least professional friends, which makes the idea more intriguing.
"If that were a possibility I would be very interested," Price said. "I know Carl and his wife. He's an excellent coach and a great representative of college football."
Reports out of College Station yesterday had Torbush signing a lucrative contract with Texas A&M, which would seem to make his return to Alabama unlikely. However, sources close to the Tide team that talked to Torbush Wednesday said he was still interested in returning to Tuscaloosa.
Price made two other statements during Wednesday's press conference that have fans talking. First, he indicated his intention to strengthen his ties to high school state coaches by hiring a staff member from their ranks.
"What I want to do is hire a high school football coach from the state of Alabama," Price said. "I think it's important for a high school coach in the state to think that he can one day coach at The University. It's important to give them that opportunity."
Speculation on who that might be started up immediately, with names like Rush Propst of Hoover, Joey Jones of Mountain Brook, Robert Higgenbotham of TCHS and Daphne's Savarese being bandied about. And with Alabama prep football as strong as it is, there would be numerous other candidates as well. Coincidentally, Propst coaches Chad Jackson, ranked the No. 1 prospect in the state and a player Bama would love to sign. But it's not clear whether that relationship would have any bearing on the hire.
Price's second statement also set fans to guessing. "I'd also like to hire a former player as a coach," he said Wednesday. "And there are some outstanding ones out there. Whoever I hire will treat our players with dignity and respect and will coach with positive reinforcement."
Tony Nathan, Woodrow Lowe, Bobby Humphrey, Jeff Rutledge… The list of candidates is a long one. Whichever former player Price selects, his choice will undoubtedly be praised by Tide fans.
With Price heading back to Pullman this weekend to prepare his team for the Rose Bowl, he is expected to make some hires quickly so that there will be staff members in Tuscaloosa the next two weeks to handle recruiting.