If the Boise State football teams offense assumes the personality of its coordinator, fans are in for a treat in 2012.
Colleagues and players describe first-year coordinator Robert Prince as energetic, smart, progressive, aggressive, fun and creative.
Prince often can be seen racing across the practice field to congratulate a player for a great catch or long run.
Hes the Energizer Bunny, said offensive line coach Chris Strausser, who coached with Prince at Portland State and recommended him for a job at Boise State in 2001. Its hard not to be attracted to that type of energy.
Prince, 47, becomes the third man in as many seasons to run Boise States signature offense. His predecessors include his boss, coach Chris Petersen, and the current offensive coordinators of the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL (Dirk Koetter) and Texas (Bryan Harsin) and Florida (Brent Pease) at the college level.
Its a tremendous honor, Prince said. The guys that have been here in the past have done a great job. I have some big shoes to fill, and Im ready for the challenge.
Prince was the Broncos wide receivers coach from 2001 to 2003, working closely with then-offensive coordinator Petersen. He left for the NFL and returned last year as wide receivers coach.
He was an offensive coordinator at Fort Lewis College in Colorado (1994-95), in the X-League in Japan (1996-97) and at Portland State (1999-2000). He served as an offensive assistant with three NFL teams from 2004 to 2009.
I dont think theres any question, every step that Roberts taken in his career has been a growth step, said Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh, who was Princes boss at Portland State. The tough challenge at Boise is who theyve been the last six or seven years, to be the next one in line, theres a little something that comes with that. Hes ready for the challenge. Robert Prince will have his team ready theyll continue to play the type of football that is extremely efficient but extremely exciting.
Princes Portland State teams finished No. 15 and No. 12 in the nation in scoring with balanced attacks.
He just wants to be pedal to the metal at all times and hes one of those guys that if we get in the mode where were scoring some points, he doesnt want to let off, Strausser said. He understands the head coach is going to pull him off at some time, but hes one of the few guys where hes constantly saying, Lets go. Lets go. Lets go.
I like that about him.
Princes players respond to that personality, too.
He developed a series of overachieving wide receivers during his first stint at Boise State guys like Tim Gilligan and T.J. Acree and helped Matt Miller and Mitch Burroughs emerge as go-to receivers last year.
Theres never a dull moment, to say the least, but hes awesome, senior wide receiver Chris Potter said. Hes a fun guy to be around. Hes always pretty hyper.
Said Miller: Its easy to come to the complex every morning and be excited to play football for coach Prince because hes always excited to be here. I think thats him 24/7, 365.
Prince also operates on the cutting edge.
Walsh remembers him introducing play-action screen passes to wide receivers in the late 1990s, before they became popular in college football.
Petersen recently borrowed one of Princes PowerPoint presentations it featured the teams goals pyramid, which collapsed as the core principles were removed for a team meeting. Prince is the staffs technology guru.
And if theres a gadget that might help, Prince will try it. Petersen chuckled at the ruler-shaped magnifying glass Prince brought to fall camp this year to read his practice script.
I said Im going to start inventing stuff and just sell stuff to him, because hell buy whatever it is, Petersen said. If its good or not, hes going to try it out and know how to use it. We used to call him Inspector Gadget.
Prince was born in Japan and lived there until he was 7 his dad served in the military but calls San Bernardino, Calif., home. His best friend convinced him to try out for football in the sixth grade. He went on to play at Humboldt State, where he was on the losing side of the first game on the blue turf at Bronco Stadium in 1986 and once made 14 catches in a game.
His career plan: play in the NFL for a while, then teach high school math and coach football.
The scouts came and saw that I had a bunch of catches, Prince said. I was one of those guys if you needed 10 yards, Id get you 10 yards. But if you needed 20 yards, Id only get you 10 yards. So my career path changed to coaching instead of playing.
He accepted a graduate assistant position at Humboldt instead and began a 23-year climb to what is the first national-profile position of his career.
Walsh appreciated Princes leadership and ability to reach his players with his teaching style.
The attitude that he created was extremely positive, Walsh said. He doesnt have a lot of negative talk to him. Secondly, he comes with a lot of enthusiasm. He got a better workout than the players sometimes at practice. The positive energy that he created set him apart from a lot of coaches out there.
Now Prince gets a chance to place his spin on one of college footballs unique offenses, beginning with the Aug. 31 season opener at Michigan State.
Expect subtle changes, Petersen said.
But since its Prince, expect surprises, too.
It wont be the same ol, same ol, Prince said. Youll have to watch the Michigan State game for that one.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat