Son talks about father's offense

For Bama fans wondering the Tide's offense under new Head Coach Mike Price, New York Jets offensive assistant Eric Price is about as good as sources get. <br><br>Having coached at Washington State under Price's tutelage as first a graduate assistant (1991) and then quarterbacks coach (1998-2000), Eric helped implement the offensive schemes.

And oh yeah, did we mention that Mike Price is Eric's father?

"The one-back offense is kind of like what they call the ‘West Coast offense'", Eric said. "It's not always one back, but his base set is three wide (receivers), a tight end and one back. It's flexible. He actually uses a lot of different sets."

With his ability to catch the football out of the backfield, tailback Shaud Williams should flourish in Price's offense. (Associated Press)

After finishing up his duties with Pac-10 champion Washington State, Mike Price arrived in Tuscaloosa last Saturday, anxious to get started reworking the Alabama attack. "His philosophy is a ‘spread them out, if the defense spreads out with you then run it; but if they don't spread out with you then you throw it' scheme," Eric Price explained. "He's been running that offense pretty much his whole career--everywhere he's coached.

"Dennis Erickson ran a similar offense at Miami, at Washington State and now at Oregon State. Both those guys have been running it forever."

Respected nationwide for his innovative offensive schemes, Price has always believed in throwing the football. This past season Washington State averaged 421 yards of offense per game and scored a very good 33.2 points per outing. "It is a big-play offense," Eric Price said. "You're going to stretch the play vertically down the field. It's doesn't have quite as high a completion percentage as some other offenses, but it's a big-play offense."

In Coach Price's own words, he likes to "throw the pill down the field," forcing opposing defenses to respect the deep ball. "The passing game is based off four vertical routes down the field evenly distributed," Eric Price related. "Everything else works off of that. You're always threatening that four-vertical look."

With almost 70 percent of Washington State's yardage this season coming via the pass, it's obvious that Coach Price believes in an aerial attack. But his better teams have also been able to run the ball effectively. "That's usually the key," Eric Price acknowledged. "If a back gets over 1,000 yards then his teams win. He's had several good backs at Washington State that have gotten over 1,000 yards."

Fans shouldn't expect many standard I-formation sets, with a blocking fullback leading the way for the tailback. Deception will be key, with many formations designed to confuse opposing defenders. "He has done some two-back schemes during his career," Eric Price said. "He'll go five wides sometimes, or four wideouts and no tight end. There are a lot of different sets and variations in his offensive scheme."

Mimicking pro sets that fans will see on Sundays with NFL squads, from one down to the next the "look" Price presents to opposing defenders will change dramatically.

But things are not always what they seem. Eric Price explained, "It's an offense where you try to keep it simple--you do the same things from different looks. For your guys it's basically the same play you're running over and over, but to the defense it looks like different plays. You use different formations or motions.

Receivers like A.C. Carter will see plenty of passes coming their way.

"The idea is to try to keep it simple so you know what you're doing, but the defense doesn't."

Bama fans remember none-too-fondly the "chuck and duck" offensive days of 2000, when the Tide often sent numerous receivers on pass routes--but inexplicably always seemed to throw passes of five yards or less.

However, current Bama athletes Donald Clarke, Clint Johnston and David Cavan needn't worry, because while Price believes in challenging opposing secondaries through the air, he's also a big proponent of the tight end. "Whenever he's had his best offensive teams, he's had a good tight end that has caught a lot of passes," Eric Price said. "If you can get a big tight end that can catch the ball, then it's usually a good match-up with him on the linebacker."

Before he's looked at a single Tide tape, there's no question that Coach Price already has an idea of what he wants to accomplish offensively. But the specifics of how those ideas will be implemented will be tailored to fit the talent on hand.

"He'll do what his personnel allows him to do," Eric Price said. "He's not set in one way of doing something. If he has great wide receivers and not a very great tight end, then he'll do more for his receivers."

With several talented tailbacks on the roster, expect Coach Price to adjust to get his playmakers the football. Eric Price commented, "He has a base offense that he has always run, but he will adapt toward his personnel. That's especially important in college where you've got guys for such a short amount of time.

David Cavan and the other Tide tight ends will not be forgotten. (photo by Barry Fikes)

"You try and recruit for your offense, but you want to get the best players you can and do things that they do well."

Eric's father, Mike Price, arrived in Tuscaloosa Saturday to assume his duties as Alabama's head coach full time. While meeting with the press Saturday, Coach Price declined to confirm reports that Eric would soon be joining him as offensive coordinator.

But at this point those plans are a poorly kept secret. "We've talked about it," Eric acknowledged last week. "As soon as we get past the playoffs, that's an option. My father and I have talked about my future after the Jets."

New York defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 41-0, this past weekend in a first-round NFL playoff game. Eric is expected to continue coaching with the Jets until their playoff run ends. "Hopefully until after the Super Bowl," he said.

At that point Price is expected to join the Alabama staff as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.


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