ALAMEDA — R.C. Slocum was preparing for a hunt at King Ranch, the legendary South Texas property that is larger than the state of Rhode Island.
"It's quail season down here," Slocum said Friday.
Up here at Raiders headquarters, it's new-coach season. Replacing the field general has become a nearly annual ritual with this team. If Dennis Allen is to keep the revolving door closed for a while, he will do it largely on the strength of principles he learned while playing for Slocum and defensive coordinator Bob Davie at Texas A&M in the mid-1990s.
"I think that's where we first got the fast, aggressive, attacking style," Allen said Monday as he was introduced as the Raiders' new head coach. "I mean, the Wrecking Crew there at A&M that I was fortunate enough to be a part of, that was a style of defense that we played."
They called the Aggies the Wrecking Crew for a reason. Allen started at free safety in 1994 and 1995, and his team was a combined 19-3-1 over those two seasons, allowing an average of 13.7 points per game. Just once in that 23-game span did A&M allow more than 21 points.
The Aggies' 10-0-1 mark in '94 would have put them in the national title hunt had the program not been on probation due to rules violations. The 1995 team wasn't quite as successful, but had an unbelievable pool of talent on the defensive side, with no less than nine full- or part-time starters who would go on to play in the NFL — defensive linemen Ed Jasper, Pat Williams and Brandon Mitchell; linebackers Keith Mitchell, Dat Nguyen, Warrick Holdman and Reggie Brown; and defensive backs Ray Mickens and Donovan Greer.
Allen, possessing more brains than physical ability, was not one of the future NFLers. But he was integral to the Aggies' success.
"Every defensive player will tell you, the middle linebacker and the free safety are the ones that control the defense," said Mickens, who came to College Station the same year as Allen and wound up playing 10 years in the NFL, including eight with the Jets. "Dennis Allen was our starting free safety. He made all the calls, and made our jobs a lot easier. The corners, all we had to do was stick on people, man."
Allen is probably best known for his late-game interception in the end zone against Texas' Shea Lorenz, preserving a victory over the hated Longhorns in 1993. Mickens still gives him grief over the play.
"I always ask him what he was doing coming out of the end zone and sliding," Mickens said.
After graduating, Allen tried to catch on with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent. When that didn't work, he approached Slocum about a coaching position.
"Normally I try to encourage guys to go off somewhere else at first and get some experience," Slocum said. "He was one that I wanted to keep around."
Allen spent four years as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M. After two years coaching the secondary at Tulsa, he embarked on an NFL coaching career that put him on the fast track to the position he now fills with the Raiders.
His former college teammates remember a player who was poised, diligent and, above all else, smart.