Players excited about Price's offense

Just like the fans, Alabama's players are wondering what life will be like next season under new Head Coach Mike Price. But they've seen and heard enough already to be excited. <br><br>"He said that ‘we play smash-mouth defense and we have fun on offense,'" tight end Clint Johnston noted. "That's something to look forward to."

Known as one of the most innovative offensive coaches in the country, Mike Price will remake the Alabama attack in his own image. And expect that image to involve more passing.

Washington State earned 221 non-penalty first downs this season, with 140 (63 percent) achieved via the pass. By contrast, 54 percent of Bama's first downs were came by the run. "Of course that's how they do it on the West Coast," safety Roman Harper said. "They're offensive minded people. They throw the ball around a lot. I think that will be good. I would love to see that."

Like the rest of the Alabama receivers, Zach Fletcher is excited about more passes being thrown his way.

Under Price, the 2002 Cougars threw for 297.2 yards per game, almost 100 yards more than Alabama. Offensive tackle Wesley Britt has a dream of one day playing in the NFL, and he believes the new schemes will help his chances. "We know about the West Coast offense," Britt said. "As an offensive lineman I'm excited to get the chance to learn how to pass block better. That will be beneficial to my future in the NFL."

The top four receivers for the Cougars this season finished with 725, 800, 691 and 347 yards respectively. Their total receptions were 49, 48, 48 and 28. Alabama's top four wideouts caught 37, 32, 27 and 20 balls respectively. "I like anybody that throws the football," senior receiver Zach Fletcher said.

Washington State's pass offense finished ranked 12th best in the nation. But the Cougars face a tough bowl game match-up versus Oklahoma. "I've heard people talk about his offense, and I'm definitely planning on watching the Rose Bowl carefully," Johnston said. "He's had some great quarterbacks, guys like Ryan Leaf and Drew Bledsoe. With Brodie (Croyle) and Spencer (Pennington) coming through, I think he'll develop them."

Johnston correctly notes that Price has a reputation for developing NFL-caliber quarterbacks. Though now out of football, Leaf made millions of dollars as a first-round draft choice by San Diego. And after beginning his career with New England, Bledsoe is now starting for the Buffalo Bills. Earlier, Price tutored Jack Thompson, the "Throwin' Somoan," to All-America honors. Timm Rosenbach, currently offensive coordinator at Eastern Washington and a candidate for the Alabama staff, was also a quarterbacking star under Price's tutelage.

This year's Washington State quarterback, Jason Gesser, threw for 3,169 yards and 27 touchdowns. Last season all of Alabama's QBs passed for 2,380 yards and 11 TDs.

Dennis Alexander doesn't care where the points come from, so long as Alabama wins.

Brodie Croyle will enter spring drills atop the Tide depth chart, but Pennington and redshirt freshman Brandon Avalos will also benefit from Price's coaching. "He's developed some pretty good quarterbacks," Avalos said. "Obviously he brings out the best in his quarterbacks. He's produced three All-Americans. He's led teams to 10-win seasons. He's been pretty good with the quarterbacks that he's coached.

"He'll bring out the best in all three of us."

The philosophy may be different, but scoring more points than the opposition remains the goal. The 2002 Washington State team averaged 34.8 points per game, 15th best in the country. Alabama put up 28.8 per game. The Cougars outscored their opposition in every quarter, with their biggest margin in the second (121:51). Playing one less game than the Tide, Washington State scored 50 offensive touchdowns to 42 for Alabama.

Senior guard Dennis Alexander doesn't care where the points come from, so long as they come in bunches. "Whatever works," Alexander said. "If it puts points on the board and we help our defense out in the game, that's great. We have no certain offense we have to run. Whatever works."

Ken Darby runs during practice. He and senior Shaud Williams are ideally suited for a one-back offense.

This past season Washington State ran the ball less than Alabama. The Cougars rushed for 139.7 yards per game and scored 17 rushing touchdowns, while Tide backs rushed for 207.7 yards per outing and scored 27 times. But with significantly less talent at the running back position, Washington State still had three backs finish with more than 300 yards.

Taking rushing and passing yardage together, Washington State out-gained Alabama last season per game, 436.8 to 406.0. "We'll get rolling and throw the ball a lot," Johnston said. "And guys like Shaud Williams will be able to run it. Driving back from his press conference (Wednesday), I was really pleased. I couldn't imagine myself being happier with any other coach."

"I'm excited about the type of offense," Britt added. "I've watched them during the season. With the problems you have in Pullman competing against the other PAC-10 schools, the year that they have had was unbelievable. To do that at Washington State, to take them to the Rose Bowl--that takes a good coach.

"We're definitely going to watch the Rose Bowl to see his offensive and defensive philosophies."

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