Q&A with Chip Long

Devils Digest sat down with Arizona State's tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator to discuss that position group, as well as the results of the 2014 recruiting class and the efforts going forward in that area in the 2015 class.

Devils Digest: You added one tight end in the recruiting class, Brendan Landman, who was largely an unknown among 2014 prospects. What are some of his attributes that make him a good fit on the team?

Chip Long: "The number one thing was is that at the satellite camp we had in Northern California, so I got to work him there and also got to work with him when he came down to our camp here. So I know exactly what I'm getting. His versatility, his physicality…he has a tremendous upside. He could also be a great offensive tackle one day. His mindset, the way he goes about working and how he plays the game are exactly what I'm looking for in terms a big, wide tight end type."

Devils Digest: In an offense such as ASU's that is predicated so much on the run, there is obviously a big need for good blocking tight ends. Did that aspect weigh heavily as you add a player like Landman?

Chip Long: "There is no question. You always want to have the mixture so you have a tight end that can do multiple things. But there is no question with Brendan as far as what we are getting and the fact that he's a very good receiving tight end is even better. We need a good blocker on the perimeter like Chris Coyle was."

Devils Digest: De'Marieya Nelson was a very late signee in the 2013 recruiting class, but came as advertised being an extremely versatile player that lined up not only at tight end, but also at rush end and running back. Were you impressed by what the season he had especially for a junior college transfer?

Chip Long: "I'm very impressed with De'Mariyea. To come in with hardly any training at all and have the season he had…he was probably our best special teams' player too. I'm very excited about De'Mariyea and I'm expecting him to have the season that Chris (Coyle) had his first year with us. I told him that I want him to break all of his (Coyle's) records. I think he can do that. He understands the game much better this year and will allow us to do different things on offense because he can run the ball. I'm extremely excited about De'Mariyea."

Devils Digest: When you look at the entire group of tight ends and their performance in the 2013 season, how would you rate it?

Chip Long: "I thought they did a great job. We were among the top rushing teams in the country, we were able to be so multiple in our formations, and all the tight ends contributed in their own certain way. It was really exciting to see them play the way they did. Now, they didn't have the catches they did the year before and that is what happens when you bring in someone like a Jaelen Strong. But as a pure all around group I thought they did a great job."

Devils Digest: What makes the tight end position in this offense so unique compared to other schemes?

Chip Long: "It's really a tight end driven offense. You need to play as an outside receiver, in-line tight end, in the backfield as a running back, plus you get to go so fast so you usually don't get to see all that (in other offenses). On average you are getting 8-10 touches a game. So the ball is coming your way more than you see in other offenses."

Devils Digest: Wanted to go over the other tight ends in this group that we maybe don't get to talk about a lot. Grant Martinez redshirted as a freshman last year. How do you feel he progressed this past year?

Chip Long: "I think he has done a great job. Grant is one the hardest workers we have. He's a great leader and he wants to be great. He loves being a Sun Devil. He lives and breathes it. He put on great weight and is up to 225 lbs and is getting his body right. Being new, for Grant it's all about learning the position. We have some other young guys there, but that's all right because when somebody surprises you he will be that much more explosive. Grant has unbelievable instincts and hands as a receiving tight end, he just has to get used to everything else. All that takes time, but he's a very intelligent kid and hard working. He's going to be a player."

Devils Digest: Kody Kohl is one player who has been slowed down a lot with injuries. What kind of role do you expect from him this year?

Chip Long: "I'm really excited about Kody. He's just as of a physical specimen as anyone on our team and very explosive. It's unfortunate that he won't be able to do much in the spring because of his shoulder, but he has been with me for two years now going on his third so he knows what to expect and he knows the offense. He just has to get the reps and be the guy."

Devils Digest: Marcus Washington has been bouncing back between running back and tight end, but as a senior he brings experience to this group…

Chip Long: "There is no question. Marcus has been with me for a while too and he knows the offense. Our three-back is probably the hardest position to learn in our offense after quarterback. We put a lot of stuff on them and they have to execute in a split second. He's a dynamic player and like De'Marieya can run the ball so he fits into some different packages and that is exciting."

Devils Digest: When you look at your entire personnel group, do you feel that you can or need to tweak some of the scheme when it comes to tight end or do you just keep it the same?

Chip Long: "It's going to be a little of both. That is what is so unique about this offense, how multiple it is. We are adding some dynamic backs and we are going to have a different look. But our guys understand the base and it starts from there and then you can branch off to what certain guys are good at and put them in a position to be successful."

Devils Digest: Rankings wise the 2014 recruiting class is one of the best ever in school's history. What are your thoughts on this group of players from your recruiting coordinator perspective?

Chip Long: "It's an unbelievable job signing three in-state payers and being a Top 20 class nationally. That's unheard of and I don't think I ever saw something like that. That just shows you the work ethic of the staff that has been taking place for almost two years now, and to see it all come to fruition is exciting. Recruiting the right guys, staying on them, being proactive…a lot of them committed early in the season so they had a good nucleus and brotherhood in this class and they were able to help bring other guys into it which is special.

"Obviously having the season we had and we backed up what we preached, kids saw that and felt that. It made it different than recruiting the year before. The fact that you can sell your head coach no matter what living room he's going into, is huge because if you can't do that you are in trouble. I'm very excited about this class. But now our sights are higher. This is a great class and now we have to do better. That's what you always try to do. You always push it to the limit and keep building. We have a great program to sell here, and with our stadium renovations coming up and improvements to our football facility the ante is only going to go up more."

Devils Digest: You mentioned signing only three in-state players. With the 2014 class being the best the state has ever seen, is there a sense of frustration over that number?

Chip Long: "We are going to recruit this state hard every year, but to me it's always about getting the right guys and the best guys. If we sign an in-state guy he has to come in and be successful. That is what nobody else but us can sell.

"When you go out of state it's tough. The pressure isn't on the coaches, it's on you. You come here to Arizona State, it's doesn't do the program or the university any good if you're not successful and sitting on the sidelines and not making an impact, so the pressure in on us the coaches. The three in-state guys we brought in this year will make a huge impact. And really every kid we signed we believe will come in and make an impact."

Devils Digest: As we all know the recruiting culture around the country only gets crazier every year, and in this class we saw a lot of commits to a school that ended up taking several other official visits after commitment. For ASU in specfic, do you allow this because you are confident you can keep that pledge in the fold or is it about not reigning a kid in too tight than you are increasing your chances of losing him?

Chip Long: "One of our philosophies is that when you are committed, you are committed. I understand that late in the process certain situations come up, but we are not recruiting to your scholarship when you're committed to us. That is how we look at it. Now if a commit starts visiting some schools in January there isn't a lot you can do about that. We want guys who want to be here, but it's also a delicate thing and every recruit is different. If you are going to shop around, we will shop around and that is up front and known."

Devils Digest: So it's really matter of just rolling with the punches when you have, for example, a commit in Kalen Ballage, who visited three Pac-12 schools in the last two weeks before signing day…

Chip Long: "The whole time Kalen told me: ‘Coach, I'm coming here. I want to get out of the weather and I want to get away. I'm a Sun Devil.' So yeah, you are stressed to the core and all that, but he had a great visit and got along with our guys really well. Sometimes it's hard to do, but you have to believe what a commit tells you and he stuck by it."

Devils Digest: You mentioned that you want each recruiting class to be better than the previous one. What are your goals for the 2015 class?

Chip Long: "Number one is that we want to put together a great offensive line class and tight end is also a priority. We are always going to go after the best playmakers in America bar none, and also the best defensive linemen out there. With the numbers we put up (on offense and defense) we should be able to go after the best players in the country.

"Our philosophy won't change because we want to get better players. We are going to build on what we did last year. We are going to keep on staying on the local recruits. We'll continue to have bigger social media presence, because that is where the kids are and you want to be on that platform. If you're not going to do it, you will get passed by. We do a good job staying on top of that.

"We'll continue marketing the program, getting those kids on campus to visit and just pushing everything we have done – brand this program and this university."

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