Player Capsule: Antonio Longino
Position: WILL (boundary side linebacker)
Weight: 230 pounds
2014 season quick review: After starting the season as one of two Devil backers splitting action, Longino moved to WILL and found his true home, blossoming in the role. He had eight tackles against Stanford in his first start at the position and 11 tackles against Utah. He later led ASU again in tackles against Arizona and had a remarkable 17 stops in the Sun Bowl against Duke, reinforcing his status as one of the top run defenders on the roster. For the season Longino finished third on the team with 94 tackles
Co-defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Keith Patterson's take: "First of all I’ll talk about Tony personally, if you look at Tony he’s probably matured as much as any football player on our team, even since the day I got here. Then you throw in the factor of what we do on defense, it’s not easy. I mean I’m talking about every front, the language we use, the method of communication, I mean within a nanosecond of the ball being snapped. So could you imagine coming from junior college football to an elite PAC 12 conference program, it’s like going from consumer math to I don't know if it’s nano-physics or calculus or what but there is a major difference and I think it just takes time.
"Tony is now, he’s comfortable, to do what he did, I mean he did not take one rep at linebacker until the week of Stanford. He was a Devil backer all the way through fall camp and the first four games and moves back and all he did was the third leading tackler on the team. It would have been hard for anyone to out-perform (Jordan) Simone or Damarious (Randall) but yet if you look at what he did it’s truly remarkable and not just what he did, it was how few mistakes he made the remainder of the season. Not out of position, all the coverage concepts, I mean there’s times we have in upwards of 23 different coverage concepts and it changes your responsibility not by those concepts but by the formation. So for him to do what he did I couldn’t have been more proud of him. I was as proud of Tony as any guy was."
SunDevilSource.com analysis: Among returning linebackers on the ASU roster, Longino is the best pro prospect. He's got a nice combination of size and range, plays with an active motor and is a heavy, sure tackler. The move to the WILL position was ideally suited for his skill set and it's where he's got a chance to play at the next level. HIs ability to chase down plays from the boundary side with long runs to the far sideline consistently impressed us and demonstrated his relentless approach to the position. For having never played the position with any consistency, Longino adjusted very well to the schematic demands and if anything is still pretty early in his development as a player with his best years ahead.
Longino is a physical player when attacking the run but does so with very good gap range and tends to close down run lanes laterally that less athletic players struggle with. He can run and cover backs relatively well into the boundary and provides good versatility that includes an ability to physically destabilize a pocket when blitzing due to how he gets a nice push and plays with violence. As he continues to immerse himself in film and understanding opponent tendencies even better, and becomes better at play diagnostics and getting his footwork down and understanding when to be patient, his athletic and skill attributes are going to soar. He has continued to mature as an energetic beacon on the field, with an infectious energy and is usually one of the first to celebrate with a teammate.
Projected depth chart status: Even though he has another athletic linebacker, D.J. Calhoun, behind him on the depth chart, it's hard to imagine Longino doesn't start and solidify his standing as one of the top players on the ASU roster. He checks all the boxes that a coach would look for in a player at the position and has a great disposition and high expectations for himself.