It's Alabama all the way

With classes starting today, the Alabama players will finally get a chance to begin work with their new coaches. But after meeting Head Coach Mike Price in person, count senior wideout Dre Fulgham among his fans. <br><br>"It seems like every time somebody tries to bring Alabama down, we end up on top," was Fulgham's assessment.

So much for any staff changeover blues.

In fact, according to Fulgham when it comes to head coaches, Alabama has traded up. "I was in town for Coach Price's press conference," Fulgham related. "Montevallo (Fulgham's home town) is not that far away, so I was already there anyway. Listening to Coach Price talk reminded me of Bobby Bowden. That's who he reminded me of.

"I shook his hand, and he seemed like a great guy. He'll fit the program just fine."

Averaging 17.0 yards per catch, Fulgham developed a reputation last year as a "big play" receiver. (GettyImages)

Like most Tide fans, Fulgham was disappointed Washington State couldn't win the Rose Bowl. "I was pulling for them," Fulgham said. "I didn't miss that game. I was a Washington State fan for one game."

Facing his third head coach in four years, before he left for Christmas break Dre Fulgham had talked to some of his teammates about possibly declaring for the NFL draft and skipping his senior year. But those ideas have vanished. "No, that's not in my mind now," he related. "It's Alabama all the way."

Along with AC Carter and Triandos Luke, Fulgham makes three senior Tide receivers returning next season with starting experience. But he's not worried about getting his share of touches. "I know Coach Price will use more of a passing offense," Fulgham said. "He'll open it up and throw it. I've watched some of his games, and I like what I've seen. I think I'll enjoy playing for him. He knew (quarterback) Brodie Croyle before he even came to Alabama, so I think he'll start off on a good step."

Expect Price-led Bama to "pass first to set up the run." Last season Washington State had four athletes with more than 600 yards receiving, and two of those totaled close to 900 yards. "That sounds good to me," Fulgham said. "Playing in an offense like that a receiver will work to get his opportunities. I'll have to compete for that time, but we all pull for each other."

The new emphasis on passing means that Fulgham and his teammates will have their work cut out for them, learning a new offense. But as one of several athletes with dreams of one day playing on Sundays, Fulgham sees Price's pro-oriented attack as a definite improvement. "That's good for the players and good for the offensive line," he pointed out. "It should be fun. Coach Price will bring fun back to football."

After studying up on Coach Price's offensive schemes, Fulgham is anxious to get back on the field.

With Carter sideline last season with a broken leg, Fulgham was the Tide's second leading receiver in terms of yardage (493), and his 29 catches ranked third. His first two seasons at the Capstone Fulgham caught only three passes.

Fulgham assessed his play. "I think 2002 was a big improvement from the previous years. I was pleased with how things went--though I think I can do even better. I've got plenty of things to work on this year."

"It was sort of a break-out year for me," Fulgham continued. "I think I opened a lot of people's eyes. I just want to move on from that and continue my success from last year."

Fulgham finished his junior campaign ranked first on the Tide squad for touchdown receptions (three) and average per catch (17.0 yards), making him Bama's "big play" man among the starting receivers. "I was just taking what the defense gave me," Fulgham said. "Whenever the ball came my way, I tried to do my best to make something happen."

Like many of the best athletes, Fulgham's first sporting love was basketball. As a high school senior he was noted for having a "through the roof" vertical jump. Since entering college Fulgham has toiled tirelessly in the weight room, building himself into a powerful athlete as well. But he hasn't lost any of his "hops."

Triandos Luke and Fulgham celebrate a touchdown last season. Alabama returns four senior receivers with extensive playing experience. (Associated Press)

"I haven't lost my jumps," Fulgham said. "I've still got them. I work out a lot, but (head Strength and Conditioning) Coach (Ben) Pollard knows what he's doing. He works us out, but he makes sure we don't lose a step."

With Alabama's basketball team ranked among the nation's best, is he tempted to give Mark Gottfried a call?

"With the team doing so well, maybe I'll walk on," Fulgham replied with a laugh. "I miss it, no doubt. That was my first love. I played basketball all the time while I was young. It wasn't until I started growing up in junior high that I started playing football, and I still play basketball all the time.

"Sometimes I wish I could go back. Maybe I'd play basketball this time."

Winter term classes begin today, which means it's back to work for Fulgham and his teammates.

"My holiday was great--I didn't get up until 11 o'clock most mornings," he related. "But I can't wait. It's going to be exciting."

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