Diverse backgrounds of Lions' assistants might ease transition

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Ron Prince

London — When Jim Caldwell built his staff in 2014, he found plenty of coaches with diverse experiences.

As the Lions prepare to overcome the firing of three assistant coaches this week and for the rest of the 2015 season, having assistants who have worked with a variety of positions groups could ease the midseason transition.

New offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, 31, has minimal NFL experience as he takes over for Joe Lombardi, but the other men who had their duties changed Monday are moving to coach positions with which they've worked previously.

Ron Prince, who's been coaching since 1992, has worked extensively with offensive linemen in the past and played offensive line in college. After spending the past season and a half coaching the Lions' tight ends, he'll revert to working with the line as he replaces Jeremiah Washburn and Terry Heffernan.

"He's a very good offensive line coach, has a real wide breadth of knowledge of offensive football," Caldwell said of Prince. "He's been a head coach before, so he's been around the block."

Prince coached offensive linemen at his first five college jobs from 1993-2002. The last two years of that stretch were at Virginia, and he spent the next three years as the offensive coordinator for the Cavaliers.

From there, he became the head coach at Kansas State from 2006-08. From 2010-11, he worked with the Colts' offensive line and then the same group with the Jaguars in 2012. After a year as Rutgers' offensive coordinator, Prince joined the Lions as assistant head coach with a focus on tight ends.

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In 2009, Prince went back to Virginia to coach special teams, and while there, he was on a staff with Devin Fitzsimmons, who will now coach the Lions' tight ends. Fitzsimmons had a special teams focus since joining the Lions last year, but he coached tight ends at Richmond in 2010 and Delaware in 2013.

Fitzsimmons was also on Prince's staff at Kansas State from 2007-08 and worked with Prince and Caldwell with the Colts in 2011 as an offensive quality control coach.

Curtis Modkins also received a promotion from running backs coach to run game coordinator, a position he held with the Lions in 2013. He was also the offensive coordinator for the Bills from 2010-12.

With Washburn and Heffernan gone, Modkins and defensive line coach Kris Kocurek are the only coaches remaining on staff who were also in Detroit when Jim Schwartz was head coach. Caldwell said that the previous experience of the fired coaches as well as his relationship with Cooter — who was with Caldwell in Indianapolis from 2009-11 — didn't play a role in the decisions Monday.

"Production is the key in our business," he said.

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