Seen & Heard 12/21

AMID ALL the angst of the past few days came a little nugget of sunshine that was tucked away in the fine print of the state's major papers: That Cougar defensive tackle coach <b>Mike Walker</b> is staying in Pullman rather than head to Alabama with <b>Mike Price</b>. That's a huge, long-term shot in the arm to WSU's recruiting efforts.

Walker, you see, has emerged over the past five years as one of the West Coast's outstanding recruiters, especially in California where he's had a major hand in signing kids such as Isaac Brown and Dwayne Wright.

Cougar recruiting will get another big boost if Robin Pflugrad sticks around. He was a finalist for the head job at Montana (which ended up going to Husky assistant Bobby Hauck), so wasn't really part of the early speculation on who would stay and who would go with Price. Pflugrad, in his second year as WSU's recruiting coordinator, has brought a discipline to the process that paid big dividends for the Cougars last February.

One assistant who's definitely going to Tuscaloosa is secondary coach Chris Ball. And there's no shortage of former Cougars who could be in line to replace him. Ken Greene, voted to the WSU all-time team in 1995, is said to be very interested in coming to WSU. He's currently the secondary coach at Purdue. In addition, there's a pair of old Palouse Posse-era alums: Greg Burns at USC and John Rushing at Montana State. Another guy who ought to get a look is Paul Sorensen --- he's done great work at Lewis & Clark High in Spokane over the years. In fact, standout Cougar safety Erik Coleman is one of his LC products.

Aaron Price, WSU's quarterbacks and kickers coach, is also going to Tuscaloosa, fueling speculation that Timm Rosenbach or Mark Rypien, a pair of fabled old Cougar QBs, could be coming back to town to mentor Matt Kegel, Chris Hurd, Josh Swogger and Carl Bonnell. Rosenbach is the offensive coordinator at Eastern Washington and Rypien, now retired from the NFL, has made no secret of his interest in coaching.

The Spokesman-Review also reports that there talk that WSU could make a run at Cal's Jim Michalezik for the offensive line position vacated by Bob Connolly, who is headed to 'Bama. Michalezik played for the Cougars in the late-80s and previously was an assistant for Dennis Erickson at Oregon State.

In addition to Walker and Doba, Mike Levenseller (offensive coordinator) and Robb Akey (new defensive coordinator) are the other Price assistants who are staying in Pullman. Aaron Price, Ball, Connolly and Kasey Dunn are headed south. Mike Price is reported to have asked each and every assistant to join him in Tuscaloosa.

IN PERHAPS THE least shocking announcement of the week, consensus All-American and Outland Trophy winner Rien Long -- said to be a big fan of new head coach Bill Doba --- reaffirmed that he's coming back for his senior season. That has to rank right up there with Jack Thompson's decision in early 1978 to come back for his fifth season.

The big defensive tackle from Anacortes also has made no bones about what he thinks of Price coaching in the Rose Bowl.

"We're playing for ourselves, we're playing for the Cougars and we're playing for the fans,'' he's quoted as saying in an AP story. "Coach Price isn't a part of us any more. He's going to help us win this game, but he's chosen to take the Crimson Tide road. We're playing for ourselves, coach Doba and the coaches that are staying.''

Another defensive lineman, junior end Isaac Brown, was even more brutally honest in a guest column in Friday's Spokesman-Review. "The sentiment on the team was that we didn't really want (Price) coaching us in the Rose Bowl, but it's something that has got to be done in order for us to have a chance to win."

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