O-Coordinator anxious to start

After two years of coaching in the professional ranks, Eric Price decided it was time to reunite with the family.

Price, formerly of the NFL's New York Jets, was named offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach on January 14 of this year, joining Head Coach and father Mike and Quarterbacks Coach and brother Eric. Although it's not the first time Mike Price has coached with his sons--Eric coached at Washington State from 1998-2000 and Aaron coached there from 2001-02--it is the first time both of Mike's sons will coach under him.

"It's a unique situation," Eric Price said. "I've coached wide receivers and quarterbacks. With my father and my brother, we're really all on the same page. We've grown up in the same offense, and that's an advantage for us. We're all on the same page as far as what plays we're running and what formations we're running."

At a relatively early point in his coaching career, Eric Price will handle the dual responsibilities of Offensive Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach.

The first thing Price noticed about the group of athletes he's working with is their dedication to practicing and getting better on their techniques and skills.

"They are eager to learn," Price said. "They're just waiting to get started and see what's in store for them, as far as the scheme of our offense. It's kind of exciting. It's a group of real hard working, fundamentally sound kids. We've got some kids who have been through the fire before; they're a veteran team."

Price said that the offense will focus on the pass to set up the run, and that while the definite schemes aren't set, spring practice should give the coaches a better idea of what the personnel can do on the field. The average offensive set will almost always feature one running back, but could feature four-wide sets, or two-wide and two-tight end sets to join the running back. In the 1998 season when Washington State played in the Rose Bowl, Price said that the base set was five wideouts and no running backs.

"That's (the one-back set) our main set but it depends on our personnel," Price said. "We'll throw the football to set up the run and we like to get the ball in the hands of our receivers who can run after the catch."

Price wouldn't allude to any specifics when asked about players who might change positions, but said it was definitely a possibility. There is speculation that in a one-back set, players such as junior running back Ray Hudson or sophomore fullback Greg McLain could be switched to a position where there would be a better chance of them seeing action. McLain told BamaMag.com earlier this week that he would start spring drills at tight end, but Price and the other coaches are keeping mum on any specifics.

Antonio Carter leads a group of talented senior receivers for Alabama. (AllSport)

"That's one of our projects in the spring, finding out who our best 11 players are and making sure they are on the field," Price said. "Moving around position to position is what we will do, trying to find out who can do what and how well they can do it."

For now all Price knows is what he's seen on film. The only loss at the receiver position is Sam Collins, but a veteran group returns including seniors Zach Fletcher, Triandos Luke, Dre Fulgham, Antonio Carter, Lance Taylor and Brandon Greer. Price, however, is also interested in seeing what younger, less experienced players can do. This group includes juniors Thurman Ward and Tarry Givens, sophomore Brandon Brooks, and redshirt freshman Marcus McKnight.

"We have seen all the film, it's just a matter of working with them in person," Price said. "The guys that have played in the past are all good players fundamentally. We've got a great group of guys to work with. Every year in college football, so much changes. We need to find out about the younger guys, the guys that haven't played. Those guys are in the mix now."

Carter will miss spring practice as he is having recurring problems with a stress fracture in his leg. He redshirted last season due to his leg not healing in time after having a rod surgically inserted. Price, however, is confident in what Carter can do.

"Going through the learning of the plays and getting those reps, I'd like to have him out there," Price said. "But he's caught balls in big games, he's been there before. He'll be ok. We'll have plenty of numbers."

In the spring, the offensive coaching staff will try to figure out what the best formations to run are. Price said that the flexibility of the playbook and formations should produce a formula for success.

Junior Thurman Ward is one of several talented backup receivers, hoping to make an impact this spring.

"The thing about this offense is that you put in the core plays and you build off of that," Price said. "It's flexible enough to do different things. You change personnel for different plays. You can go in with a tight end and a wingback, or a fullback and four wideouts. I know at Washington State, my dad has done everything from a two-back with two tight ends to four wides. One year, five-wides was their base set."

Price is looking forward to returning to the college ranks, even though there is more responsibility in dealing with the student-athletes.

"In college, you're more than just a coach," Price said. "You're a parent away from home, you're a psychologist, you're a counselor, and you're in between the athlete and his girlfriend helping him figure things out. You wear a lot of different hats, and that's the biggest difference."

At least the 36-year old coach won't have to worry about coaching anyone older than him. "With the Jets I coached Vinny Testaverde," Price said. "And yeah, he was older than me."

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