Jackie Shipp Q&A

Jackie Shipp arrived at Arizona State with an impressive resume, and with the current roster of Sun Devil defensive linemen chances are that this long time Oklahoma assistant coach will able to find as much success in Tempe as he did in Norman. Devils Digest sat down with the first-year coach to recap spring practice, get insight on his coaching philosophy and see how ASU does compare to Oklahoma.

Devils Digest: When spring practice started you had goals and expectations you set forth for the defensive line, now that spring practice is in the books, do you think that those goals and expectations have been met?

Jackie Shipp: "I think were heading in the right direction towards those goals and expectations. My main thing was working on technique, fundamentals, and effort. Executing those things and understand why you're doing it, which helps you execute them. So that was the main thing for me - improvement, working on technique fundamentals and effort, and we are going in the right direction there."

Devils Digest: What was the most encouraging thing you took away from spring practice from a defensive line perspective?

Jackie Shipp: "We have some guys who are good football players and have the ability to play. They learned some things and you saw guys getting better but we still have a ways to go. They can get better but they did a lot of things that were encouraging and they have the ability to get better."

Devils Digest: On the flip side what's one area of concern, or an area you really want to hone in on going into fall camp?

Jackie Shipp: "The same thing ,technique and fundamentals, same as any defensive line. Understanding why you're doing something. If you understand why, you can correct yourself, get that fixed on the field, so that is the main thing."

Devils Digest: Being a first year coach on this staff what kind of approach do you take to minimize that learning curve as players are getting use to you and you getting used to them in return?

Jackie Shipp: "Well basically, there haven't been a lot of changes. There haven't been any changes to what Coach Graham has done. You understand what they want done. Basically when you're a position coach, the technique and fundamentals don't change that much. You understand what style of play they want and your teaching that type of technique and fundamentals they want. So can that be improved on? Yes. Can they understand it better? Yes. So from that stand point there's hardly any changes in that.

"If you're running a different system, where the terminology is different, then you need to see how do they do things are different? You got to catch up. Like the first day (of spring practice), I might use old terminology I've been using for the past fourteen years. I'm saying one thing, but they call it something different here. So we have to learn right there what it means."

Devils Digest: As far as the style of play how different is it from what you were doing in Oklahoma for the last decade?

Jackie Shipp: "It's still an attack front, a little change in Oklahoma in the past year or two it's more of a two gap. In an attack front, like I said technique is your main thing. It's like a professional player going from one team to another. People are going to run a four- man front or a three-man front, but one place may call it a four-man front red and the other team calls it blue. It's getting the terminology and the instruction of different things."

Devils Digest: Can you identify a leader on this defensive line that can be considered a liaison between the coach and the players?

Jackie Shipp: "As far as a leader, I think Will Sutton can be a leader on the defensive line. I think there are some other guys on that line that can develop into that."

Devils Digest: This is obviously your first taste of coaching Will Sutton. Now that you've been coaching him for four, five weeks, what in your opinion makes him such a special player?

Jackie Shipp: "He has a great feel for the game, smart player, understands the game, studies, and has god given ability - no doubt about that. But he has a great understanding and a great feel of the game. I told him ‘you're going to be a coach one day' because he really does understand the defense and he can understand both sides of the ball. He has that mental part along with that physical part; he just really does have that great understanding."

Devils Digest: Carl Bradford is another standout on defense. How would you rate his play?

Jackie Shipp: "He's another guy who has the ability, very good ability. The way he can run, strength, and do all his combinations, all those type of things…very explosive, just very good ability and he just keeps getting better. From what I understand he came here as a fullback in high school? George Covney was a fullback in high school and turned into a great linebacker at Oklahoma. In this system he just keeps getting better and better with reps."

Devils Digest: So a guy like Carl Bradford, who is a hybrid linebacker/defensive end, is he coached more by you or more by Paul Randolph? Or is that 50/50?

Jackie Shipp: "I think it's a little bit of everybody, it's been me, it's been Coach Randolph and it's been Coach Graham it really just depends on the situation."

Devils Digest: Carl Bradford is really the key when you go to a four-man front or a three-man front. In your opinion what scheme do you think gives an offensive line more trouble, and what dictates during a game switching between those fronts?

Jackie Shipp: "It really just depends on what team you're playing. I think you can play a three-man front or a four-man front, if you're playing hard and your front is sound, you're always going to have a chance with who you're playing against."

Devils Digest: So perhaps sometimes we put a little bit too much stock in running that three man/four man…

Jackie Shipp: "I think what people put stock in is what's working at that particular time. If it's not working people are going to say heck with that, if it's working people are going to love it."

Devils Digest: Do you have a pass rush technique that is your favorite move that you want your players to really dial up on third and long or do you let them be more creative and employ the move that work best for that player?

Jackie Shipp: "I think it's just like anybody, you know it's amazing If you watch great professional pass rushers they have probably have two moves they use and then they have a counter off of it. But they are the best moves, there's no three or four. So you work the fundamentals, which are very basic, which everybody works. It's pretty consistent on pass rushing technique.

"So basically what works for that particular guy, it could be their body type, it could be their speed. Some guys are better power rushers some guys are better speed rushers, then you add the different techniques in there. It just comes down to the individual, and what they're best at doing and what their talents allow them to do."

Devils Digest: Do you want your players, in general, focusing more on penetrating gaps or just playing their man block?

Jackie Shipp: "They're doing both. You want them to attack the man they're on the line with, or you want them coming off that block, so basically there it is right there - attacking the man. Coming off their side of the line of scrimmage and getting penetration."

Devils Digest: Coming back to Will Sutton, when you look at his talent right now, how do you compare it to some of the defensive linemen you had at Oklahoma who maybe went on to play in the NFL?

Jackie Shipp: "I never compare. That's my philosophy. Coming from Oklahoma, I learned that from Coach (Barry) Switzer. I don't think you ever saw Barry Switzer saying that one guy was better than that guy. Or this guy is better than him. I never give the media that satisfaction."

Devils Digest: Sometimes we use the cliché ‘blue collar guy' too frequently but Jaxon Hood is a player that really epitomizes that saying. Again, it's your first time coaching him right now through spring practice, but what impresses you about him?

Jackie Shipp: "Well, I think he's the most improved d-lineman this spring. He made the most improvement. He's a young guy with a lot of ability. And the thing about a young guy is understanding why you do things. Understand why you use this technique, because then you'll remember. Instead of just letting the coach tell you something and just doing it, understand why you do it. Now you'll remember it.

"Jaxon is a guy who has improved the most. He's still got a ways to go. He can be a lot better player than he is right now."

Devils Digest: Another lineman who has improved quite a bit in the spring is Gannon Conway. He's seemingly been the forgotten man on the depth chart last year but can you talk about what you saw from him in these 15 practices.

Jackie Shipp: "He has developed. He got better in the spring, especially those last two weeks he got a lot better. But with Gannon, he's just got to be more physical with each play, which I think he can be. And he's another guy who needs to understand why you do something. Why you don't open up your hips. Why this block is like this and you're making this block a whole lot more (difficult). Just watching him understand why things work better. 'Oh this is why.' Instead of just, doing it the wrong way."

Devils Digest: The flipside of Gannon Conway's reps with the first team, is Davon Coleman. He's a player who started a lot of games last year but has been relegated to the second team, playing some nose tackle too and defensive end. Does he have more of an uphill battle, so to speak, establishing himself this season?

Jackie Shipp: "He's got a lot of ability but he's got to work harder. That's it right there in a nutshell."

Devils Digest: Todd Graham joked that the first time he saw you smile all spring was when they moved Mo Latu to the defensive line later in spring practice. I know you haven't spent much time with him on the defensive line, but I'm assuming you see a lot of potential with him?

Jackie Shipp: "I think Mo will be a really good player. I really do. Mo needs to lose some weight. He needs to lose a lot of weight. If he can lose that weight, I think Mo has the chance to be a really good player. He has explosion. He has good quickness for a man his size. You know he most definitely has strength. He's as wide as a California King size bed, so I think he has the chance to be a really good football player. The thing is he needs to start by losing some weight."

Devils Digest: Obviously you've been here barely two months but what do you like about Arizona State, Tempe, and the Valley? Everyone talks about this school and area being an easy place to recruit to. As a newcomer on this staff, do you feel that way too?

Jackie Shipp: "I think it is. From a recruiting standpoint, I think getting them on campus and then coming out here to see all this - that's the key point. Academically, campus-wise, football-wise, it has a lot to sell itself. I think a lot of people know that, you just got to put that work into it.

"I go back and look at the years, I'm a history guy. If you look at the players that have come through here, going back to my time of playing in the 70's and 80's, and coming out here and losing to them in '83 in the Fiesta Bowl. I think there were about 16 guys off of that team that made it to the NFL. Easily. So they've had talent here and you can get talent here. The place has all the things you're looking for.

"People talk about the weather. It's the heat, but I'd rather have the heat than the cold. But it really is nice out here. Things can get done here. Special things."

Devils Digest: You come from a program at Oklahoma that a lot of teams, like ASU, look up to. You've coached in a lot of BCS bowl games and had a lot of success in one of the tougher conferences in the country. I know you're not a comparison guy, but when you look at the total picture at Oklahoma, and now that you've gotten a little taste of Arizona State, do you truly feel that ASU can be at that level that Oklahoma has been at for the last several years?

Jackie Shipp: "Why couldn't Arizona State be at that level? I guess the thing when you look at Oklahoma is the consistency. Look at Arizona State. They've played in Rose Bowls. They've won conference championships. It's just about consistency, which is what everybody wants. So can Arizona State do that? Most definitely."

Please visit our premium message board Sparky's Huddle to discuss this interview and to get caught up with all the Sun Devil recruiting news.

Kyle Caldwell and Becca Winn assisted with this article.

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