Chip Lindsey expects seamless transition with Sun Devils as offensive coordinator

Chip Lindsey coached his first practice at Arizona State Friday afternoon as the program continues its preparations for a Jan. 2 Cactus Bowl meeting with West Virginia.

True to his promise to hit the ground running, Chip Lindsey hopped off the tram that takes Arizona State players and coaches to the team's practice facility and jogged across the field at a brisk pace to the quarterbacks' warm up session. 

It seemed as though he'd done it a hundred times before, and even Lindsey's newly issued maroon gear looked sufficiently broken in. But Friday was the Sun Devils' freshly minted offensive coordinator's first time working with the unit he'll lead into the future.

"Biggest thing for me was to make sure I didn't get run over, standing in the wrong place and all that kind of stuff," Lindsey said, only half-kidding. "Things were a little different."

Things won't be that different though in Tempe, not really. 

ASU head coach Todd Graham made sure of that when he plucked Lindsey away from his offensive coordinator position at Southern Miss to replace Mike Norvell, who this month accepted the head coaching position at Memphis. 

"Just thrilled to welcome coach Lindsey to our family, the Sun Devil family and obviously very excited to get someone from my coaching family and that is such a great teacher first and foremost, a great person," Graham said. "We wanted someone that embodies what we're all about. The great thing about it, is obviously he studied in our system. Our kids don't have to learn new terminology."

Lindsey was an offensive analyst for Auburn coach Gus Malzahn in 2013 before becoming the offensive coordinator for the Golden Eagles a year later. Malzahn was Graham's offensive coordinator at Tulsa in 2007 and 2008, and Lindsey is his disciple now, adopting the schematic communication also used by the Sun Devils. 

"It makes the transition somewhat seamless," Lindsey said. "There's obviously some little things here and there. The biggest thing for me, it was a chance to go to Auburn and work with coach Malzahn and learn this sort of terminology and the way we do things. That's what I think I'm excited about. Yeah, it's a new job, new people, a lot of new faces. But overall I expect this thing to be a pretty seamless transition and then being here for bowl practices is a pretty big advantage. It's like a second spring ball and a chance to get to know these guys, so when we go to spring ball they already know who I am."

As a first-year play caller in 2015, Lindsey has led a potent offense at Southern Miss to a dramatic turnaround, doubling its scoring output year-over-year to 40.6 points and 519.8 yards per game. The Golden Eagles ranked No. 12 in scoring nationally, No. 8 in yards-per-play at 7.01, and first in 20-plus yard explosive plays with 102. 

A year after going 1-7 in league play, Southern Miss finished 9-4 overall in the regular season including a 7-1 mark in the West Division of Conference-USA, which it won. 

The Golden Eagles set a school record for total yards of offense and quarterback Nick Mullens threw for a record 4,145 yards -- seventh nationally -- and 36 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. They not only had a 4,000 yard passer, but two 1,000 yard rushers, reportedly only the second FBS team to accomplish the feat in history after Oklahoma in 2008. 

"This offense has been one of the most prolific offenses in the country since 2007 and that goes back to our days at Tulsa," Graham said. "We had a 5,000 yard passer, three 1,000 yard receivers and a 1,000 yard rusher on one team. Last year he had 4,000 yards passing, two 1,000 yard rushers and a 1,000 yard receiver. And just the explosive plays, No. 1 in explosive plays, I know that's something our fans want to see.

"We believe in the teacher and model. He's a great teacher, a great coach, a great developer of quarterbacks. Obviously with three young guys and we'll have another coming in, that was big for us. We want to improve and get better. We think with this hire is going to be big for us to get better. The least amount of change possible is what we wanted. Couldn't have a better fit and feel better about adding coach Lindsey to our staff."

Lindsey felt so excited by the opportunity to become the Sun Devils' play caller and quarterbacks coach that he found himself trying to sell Graham during his interview rather than the other way around. 

"It was a really fast process, that was the biggest thing I'd say," Lindsey said. "When this thing started, and I got a chance to talk with coach, it was just a great opportunity. One of those deals that I felt like I wanted to get on this thing as quickly as I can. I basically recruited him as hard as anything. I wanted to be here. This is a great place. Very familiar with him from my time working with other guys that he's been around. Knew a lot about him, knew what he's about as a person and a man. I think that made this transition a lot easier. Like I said, I'm excited to be here."

Graham's plan is to easy Lindsey into the fold. Even though the Sun Devils have three weeks and a dozen more practices to prepare for their Cactus Bowl game against West Virginia Jan. 2, Lindsey won't be calling the offense. 

"He'll coach the quarterbacks and have input into what we're doing but (offensive line) coach (Chris) Thomsen, (tight ends) coach (Chip) Long and (wide receivers) coach (Del) Alexander will head up that and obviously coach Thomsen will be the guy kind of in charge and I might even try to call a play," Graham said. 

But Graham said he locked up his No. 1 target in the process. He had no interest in changing ASU's communication on offense and won't have to. 

"Just thrilled to welcome coach Lindsey to our family, the Sun Devil family and obviously very excited to get someone from my coaching family and that is such a great teacher first and foremost, a great person," Graham said. "We wanted someone that embodies what we're all about. The great thing about it, is obviously he studied in our system. Our kids don't have to learn new terminology. Obviously excited about those explosive plays. What he did this year was phenomenal obviously. His background as a teacher and a coach, I like the fact that he's been a head coach. He's a great fit and a perfect fit for us."


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