"Pull up your pants."

It was the first bit of coaching Robert Prince gave to Colorado wide receiver Toney Clemons and it came before Prince even was officially a member of Dan Hawkins` coaching staff.

Earlier this winter as Hawkins was searching for a wide receivers coach, Prince came to Boulder for a visit to get a look at the program, the campus and the town. He also was able to meet a handful of his future players during a dinner at a local restaurant.

Clemons wanted to meet the man who was interviewing to be his position coach and get a feel for how they might get along. He swears he isn`t one to walk around with his pants hanging low or "sagging" as he calls it, but apparently there was just enough of a sag to get Prince`s attention. It was the first indication that Prince doesn`t let much slide.

"At first I thought he was just joking around with me, but he kept saying it and I realized he was serious," Clemons said. "He looked at me and said, 'If I come here, we`re going to have a problem. Pull up your pants.'"

Clemons admits he was initially caught off guard by Prince`s assertive approach, but like many of the wide receivers on the CU roster this spring, he has grown to love that sideof his new position coach.

Prince previously worked for Hawkins at Boise State from 2001-03 coaching wide receivers. He moved on the National Football League where he coached with two franchises, including the Seattle Seahawks the past two seasons.


Advertisement

Hawkins and Prince kept in touch after Prince left Boise. When Hawkins took over as wide receivers coach last season following the post-spring coaching staff shakeup caused when former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich bolted for Oregon, Hawkins phoned Prince to pick his brain about coaching the position. He asked Prince for guidance on techniques and drills for practices and they communicated throughout the season.

Prince didn`t know he would need a job this winter and Hawkins didn`t figure to be looking for a wide receivers coach for the second year in a row. He had named Ashley Ambrose receivers-coach-in-waiting last summer, and Ambrose actually filled the job for two weeks in December until secondary coach Greg Brown left and Ambrose was given the opportunity to coach the secondary, where he played 13 years in the NFL.

That turn of events and a coaching change in Seattle led to Prince being available. He said he chose to come to CU because of his relationship with Hawkins.

Prince is now nearly halfway through his first spring in the program. He has seen enough to know the strengths and weaknesses of each one of his players and he is getting to know them better every time they step on the field, meet to watch film or just sit and talk.

"I like all my guys," Prince said. "They will give good effort all the time and they want to get better. We`re still just trying to clean up all the little details, in every group, including ours. I think we`re getting there."

Prince`s coaching style is every bit like that first meeting with Clemons. He is a commanding presence on the field, but he`s not always the officer barking orders and corrections. He can be the grunt in the foxhole with his guys, too. He runs sprints right along side the players after practices and he sometimes races down field celebrating a good play with chest bumps, slaps on the helmets and congratulations.

"He sparks us. How can you not be excited when your position coach is excited," sophomore wide receiver Will Jefferson said. "He beats half of us down there celebrating half the time. He`s really doing a good job of being a good coach but also being a good teacher."

Another example of the tough side of Prince came out at the end of practice Monday when he met with his wide receivers on the field and could be heard yelling about turnovers and mistakes throughout practice. He dismissed the group in a fashion that made it clear the bar had been raised. 

"I just feel like these guys I treat like my son," Prince said of his style. "If they`re doing great, I`m going to be their biggest cheerleader, but if there is something that is not right, we`re not running a happiness camp. If I need to get on someone, I`m going to get on them, just like if they were my child."

Prince will also serve as passing game coordinator in the CU offense. He said he has worked with offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau to incorporate some tweaks to what Kiesau already was doing. Quarterback Tyler Hansen said he enjoys the vibe Prince brings to the offense.

"He definitely knows his stuff," Hansen said. "He`s been in the league and knows the passing game for sure. He`s going to help us out a lot."

Prince has inherited more talent and depth at the wide receiver position this fall than has been present in Boulder in any season since 2003 when Derek McCoy, D.J. Hackett and Jeremy Bloom were on the roster together. If everyone stays healthy, it could be difficult finding playing time if your name isn`t Clemons, Jefferson, Scotty McKnight or Markques Simas.

"I`ve played more than four guys, and I don`t have a problem with that," Prince said. "If guys deserve to play, then I don`t have a problem with that. But I`m not going to say we`re going to take out somebody just to put somebody in and hurt the integrity of a play.

"If a guy can play, he can play. If he`s not ready, he`s not ready."