Part II: Q&A with Arizona State assistant Shawn Slocum

In the second part of our recent sit down interview of Arizona State assistant coach Shawn Slocum, we asked him about the team's outside linebackers.

Chris Karpman: I was surprised Antonio (Longino) didn't get all-conference first or second team given that he led the league in sacks and tackles for loss. What did you make of that?

Slocum: "Well, a lot of those things are based on popularity and this time last year Tony wasn't a Devil backer. He was a linebacker, even though he had played at that position. He started off the season at a slower pace than the end of the season. There about the Washington game, he had a big game and things really kind of took off for him. Had he done that maybe earlier, maybe somethings had been different in some of the voters' eyes. I was very pleased he continued to improve as the season wore on. Got a little dinged up in the bowl game and it slowed him down a little. I know he was wanting to have a big game there. But I have a lot of respect for him as a young man that made a position change, was very productive and got better as the season wore on.

Karpman: I've always liked his potential projecting to the next level. What do you think about what he can be?

Slocum: "I think he's got the tools to give it a shot. It's a very tough arena to compete in. There are guys who get drafted in the first round and don't last. There are guys who get drafted throughout the draft and don't do a whole lot. I just saw a young man who is doing an [externship] here at Arizona State from the Packers, Jayrone Elliott, that I was with (in 2014) who came as an undrafted free agent and made the team. If you watched the Packers last year you saw him making plays as an outside linebacker, not just on special teams. So it really gets down to the individual. Tony has a skill set but he's got to get to the right place and do the work.

Karpman: So Antonio is gone now, the guy who was his backup last year (Ismael Murphy-Richardson) was dismissed as is gone now, who will be working with your group in the spring? 

Slcoum: "We're going to determine that, and that's what's fun about this time of year. Really it's fun for me. I enjoyed it last year because we didn't have that question answered until we were into the season. If you look at the guys we've got we've got some good players. All of our linebackers, from Christian Sam, D.J. Calhoun, Salamo (Fiso), Koron (Crump), Doug (Subtyl) coming in, A.J. Latu, it's his time to do something. What's fun is that we get to go through this process, and it's something we're doing the next three-four weeks, going into spring training, to evaluate our personnel, talk about it, and it'll be a moving target as we get ready for next season."

Karpman: Two years ago they switched to more of a heavier front to handle pro-style teams, so I know there's a versatility with your scheme. How do you feel about approaching an off-season with a blank slate standpoint in that regard? 

Slocum: "That's one of the exciting things about coaching with Todd Graham and Keith Patterson and what they've done defensively. It makes it fun to be involved in this. Not only did (Edmond) Boateng play Devil backer but Demetrius Cherry played Devil backer two seasons ago. So we can play big, we can play fast, we can play athletic. The way we're headed right now, we've got a lot of candidates who can rush and drop and so that gives us a lot of flexibility."

Karpman: "What did you think about the younger players you were worked with from a developmental standpoint that you worked with this past year? 

Slcoum: "Bo Wallace has length and loves to compete. He's a good candidate. A.J.Latu is a tough guy, has a physicality level that is outstanding. On the other side at Spur you've got Marcus Ball and we've got Koron Crump. Those are the kinds of guys, he, Doug Subtyl, that body type and that type of athleticism, that's what you want in those positions, because they can rush but they're also able to drop and cover."

Karpman: Koron has probably got to get bigger to be an every down guy, especially if he's going to play Devil I would imagine? Is he a sub-package guy right now as you see it or no?

Slocum: "When you play on the edge, you can play with different type guys there. You can play with 280 pound guys there or 220 pound guys there. They have different skill sets. We'll keep going and keep evaluating it as we move forward. Everything is not etched in stone. As I said, it's going to be a moving target between now and when we have that first kickoff this season and probably even beyond that. 

Karpman: You've mentioned Doug Subtyl a couple times, I think we had him rated as the highest guy in your class. Nobody had more sacks in junior college in California junior college football the last couple years. What makes him so promising?

Slocum: "He's got a tremendous upside. He just started playing football. This guy, No. 1, he's a really tremendous young man. He's got a challenging background he's come from and has continued to improve and he improves on a daily basis. I don't think even he understands how good he can be. I'm looking forward to getting him here and letting him develop and he'll be a good player for us."

Karpman: Without revealing too much, what are these conversations like as you consider your defense next season, looking at your personnel and how guys can be moved around and trying to figure out what gives you the best chance at putting your best team in the field? 

Slocum: "That's fun. The dynamic of being a coach is trying to get your guys in the position to be successful, how that benefits the entire team or the defense more broadly, and it's going to evolve. It evolves because of your team, what you're doing schematically, and what you opponents are doing?"

Karpman: You'll be working with the Spurs too, right?

Slocum: "Yes I'll be working with the perimeter guys, as outside linebackers slash defensive ends. You can name them whatever you want to name them. They can do it all, the rush, the defend the run, they cover."

Karpman: "With Marcus Ball or Das Tautalatasi, we've seen signs from them. What are your thoughts? 

Slocum: "Good young players. All of that has to unfold. You get through recruiting and everyone is talking about the guys you just signed. Don't lose sight of the guys you've already got here, like Marcus. Marcus is a growing player. You look at the interception he made against Washington last year? I mean that was incredible. That was one of the best plays I've ever seen. It was outstanding. You've got those kids here already. Let's get those guys going."

Karpman: Laiu Moeakiola is one of your best players on defense but he wasn't himself really all season due to the (shoulder) injury. Was it tough seeing him go through that and how it impacted the defense? 

Slocum: "There's always a compassionate part that you want a player to do well. Availability is a big part of this game. That's the nature of it. The guys that are good in the long term and over a number of years are guys who are available consistently, and that's a challenge. There are things you can't avoid, there are things that are out of your control as a player. It's a gladiator sport. It's tough, it's physical. Injuries are part of the game and you have to deal with it."

Karpman: Last question, what do you want to get accomplished this spring. What things do you have a sense of urgency about?

Slocum: "I want to improve fundamentally. I want the players we coach to improve fundamentally. That's what it's all about."

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