Archive for Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Man with a plan

Prince ready to rebuild Kansas State program

July 25, 2006

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— Ron Prince has philosophies he's not straying from. That much is for sure.

In ushering in a new, uncertain era for Kansas State football, the Wildcats' new coach is moving forward with a concrete vision. The region's media received the first insight into it Monday during Big 12 Conference media days at the Marriott Country Club Plaza.

"We've had a plan to try to put in place," Prince confirms. "I think we've been pleasantly surprised by the acceptance of our players to really take on roles that, in some cases, star players or people associated with star players would be unwilling to take on."

Prince addressed several of his beliefs, which he's banking on to take Kansas State back to the top of the Big 12, where it resided in 2003 before two straight losing seasons.

The game plan? Be in a good position by Nov. 1, when the season's openness narrows into a real race.

Recruiting? He wants speed - first, second and third. Getting strength can come with hard work. Developing into a football player can come with good leadership in the program.

But speed is the uncoachable that needs to be there already.

New Kansas State football coach Ron Prince answers questions from the media during the Big 12 Conference media days. Prince spoke Monday during the event in Kansas City, Mo.

New Kansas State football coach Ron Prince answers questions from the media during the Big 12 Conference media days. Prince spoke Monday during the event in Kansas City, Mo.

"There have been no mules," Prince says, "in the Kentucky Derby."

Coaching staff? He wants youth surrounding the youth. Only three of the 10 coaches on K-State's staff are over 40, and only one over 50. The youngest is defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, 29, who acts not a day over 21 at times. During the spring game, Morris got so excited about one of his players' execution of a play, he ran up to the player on the sidelines, jumped on his back and sent both of them sprawling to the turf.

Can you see a veteran assistant doing any sort of thing?

"There's still that coach-player relationship," receiver Jordy Nelson said, "but it can go beyond that."

The question is whether such new visions can translate to victories in a program that's had just one truly successful coach - Bill Snyder, who retired last year after 17 remarkable seasons.

Prince, being a student of college football, knows all about Snyder's accomplishments. And he knows all about the rags Snyder made into riches, being a kid from Junction City who was mildly recruited by K-State at the beginning of the Snyder era.

"I made such a great impression," Prince quipped, "that I ended up at Appalachian State."

Prince can only hope his second impression doesn't mirror his first at KSU - outsiders don't see his start as being exactly promising. First-year coaches in the Big 12 rarely have immediate success, and the preseason poll with votes from 28 media members has Kansas State picked last in the North - by a landslide.

Prince seems unfazed, though. It's a confidence in his ability to find a way to the end, even if pundits just don't believe that road's open.

"We'll let the pickers pick," Prince said, "and the players play."

Prince has other creeds he believes strongly in, such as stockpiling the secondary to combat the growing trend of spread offenses, refusing to use the word "replace" when talking of his job in succeeding Snyder, and making sure one quarterback and one quarterback only is leading the offense (though Prince still hasn't named his starter for the 2006 season).

It's a daunting task at a program where uncertainty is the bottom line after Snyder's retirement. But Prince, brushing off detractors and sticking to his philosophies, thinks his staff can get it done.

"We've all basically staked our careers," Prince said, "on the fact that we're going to turn this around and win."

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