Q&A with Arizona State offensive line coach Rob Sale

First-year line coach Rob Sale is a key figure for an Arizona State offense that has experienced a lot of coaching turnover in the last year. We spoke with him recently about his initial impressions of his unit and more.

SunDevilSource: Just coming into the program and working with the offensive line group for the first time, what were your main takeaways?

Rob Sale: "I thought we got better, I thought we progressed as a unit, guys knowing what to do. The learning curve for the o-line wasn't as much as it was for for the receivers because the receivers had to learn new formations and route concepts and things like that. I kept all the calls the same for the o-line, and how we call it. So the learning curve wasn't as high for them. But they did a great job, I thought, of knowing what to do. Now it's going to be a critical time of how we progress in the summer and do the install. I think we have some guys who can play, I think they bought into what I'm asking them to do. I was pleased. We've just got to keep getting better, every day."

SunDevilSource: You're big on having a rapid pace, keeping guys active and engaged and on an edge. What do you think as far as how guys responded to that?

Rob Sale: "I don't know how they were coached before and am not really concerned with that. As far as what we were trying to do, I thought it went well. I told them in the beginning it would probably be somewhat different, that kind of goes without saying, just knowing the way I coach. I thought those guys did a good job adjusting and they fell in line doing what I asked them to do and playing with a little more sense of urgency. I want them to continue that into the summer drills and conditioning, the sense of urgency. They understand my expectations and demands and I think it'll carry over to the summer. We have enough leaders on both sides of the ball to carry out our plan."

SunDevilSource: What did you think about the fitness and body composition of the guys? Did you want the group leaner or heavier or think it was about right overall?

Rob Sale: "I think we need to develop more, have a good offseason. Every offensive linemen needs to get upper body strength, get stronger in the weight room and work on their core. We don't have too many fat guys who need to lose weight. We got a couple guys who [need to drop] but they'll be fine. Nobody is extremely overweight. The whole group can just get stronger in the upper body."

SunDevilSource: No seniors other than center, a younger and building talent pool on this team. How do you feel about where the talent is at? Is this is a transitional year or do they have the maturity? 

Rob Sale: "Nobody wants to hear about a group being young and in transition. Nobody wants to hear that, from the Sun Devil fan base to our office. Nobody gives two craps about that. I think there's enough talent to get what we want done this season."

SunDevilSource: Let's look at your center position. It seems like a pretty good competition between your two seniors there, (A.J.) McCollum and (Tyler) McClure. Is that accurate and what do they bring to the position?

Rob Sale: "I think they're similar in some ways and also different. One guy's pluses are another guy's minuses and vice versa. I'm trying to find the best fifth offensive linemen and develop the sixth and seventh offensive linemen. That's part of competing at that spot and seeing how those guys get better in the summer. There's some other moves we can possibly make to find the best five, that's what I'm trying to do."

SunDevilSource: McClure, for a walk-on (just awarded a scholarship), is obviously pretty talented. He can get out and move well. What do you think about him?

Rob Sale: "He's a good football player. He knows what to do, knows when it comes to making the MIKE declaration, I think he does a fine job there. He has a little power, he plays in balance. I think it's fine with me, I'll start a walk-on. I really don't care. I just want to find the best players."

SunDevilSource: Todd said (junior starting left guard) Sam Jones and (junior starting right tackle) Quinn Bailey are the foundational pillars of the line. They're the most experienced, maybe the most well rounded from a leadership standpoint. Do you feel like those are your key guys you can rely on in that way?

Rob Sale: "Yeah, we do. I think we call them The Dependables. Sam is dependable. Quinn has a lot of starts under his belt, and I think we've got other guys who can be dependable as well. I think (sophomore left tackle) Cohl Cabral had a good spring, I would say, if not close to a great spring. The thing I like about him is he's smart and tough and football means a lot to him. He's a dependable. Has he started at left tackle in the conference? No, he hasn't. But the stuff is important to him. He's wired the right way. We have a good foundation of guys to effect the younger guys. We have enough to have a good start, for sure."

SunDevilSource: What do  you think about your tackles overall? It's hard for schools to get those elite tackles and a lot of times people are going to be playing guys at tackle who should be guards. 

Rob Sale: "Everybody has the same problem as an offensive line coach There's probably a few coach, your Alabamas of the world, a few others, who feel comfortable at their tackle spot. Everybody is still trying to develop tackles and depth. Everybody is trying to find out who is their sixth, seventh, eighth lineman. I don't care if it's here or USC, who is going to be the next guy up? What is your next move if somebody gets hurt. I think we're okay in the tackle position, better than okay I'd say. I feel better about the tackle spot depth wise here than I did when I was the offensive line coach at Georgia. But the whole key is just to stay healthy."

SunDevilSource: (Sophomore guard) Steve Miller is a big, athletic kid who hasn't played much. You moved him right in there with the ones at the start of spring. What do you like about his potential?

Rob Sale: "I think he's going to be a good football player for us, I really do. He has things I"m looking for, going back to The Dependables. He plays hard, that's all I can ask him to do. He knows what to do. That going to me as a coach teaching him and him applying it on the field. He plays with great effort and toughness. You give me those things and with all the measurables. He's a big human and that's what makes the special ones. I think he's going to be a good football player. It's a big summer for him to take what we did this spring and keep getting better, doing the same things over and over, and before you know it, we'll be putting it on a tee."

SunDevilSource: It seems like (sophomore guard/tackle) Zach Robertson is right there off the five right now in the sixth or seventh spot. He's a big guy, highly regarded out of high school. What are the key things that will enable him a chance to move up?

Rob Sale: "He just needs to keep focusing on what he's doing. He needs to have a great off-season and become a dependable. He needs to stay in the film studies, stay in the voice overs, got to know what to do all the time. It can't be a sometime thing. You've got to have a level of a comfort factor. Those five guys have to be on the same page knowing what to do. One guy not knowing what he's doing makes the whole line out of sorts."

SunDevilSource: These guys, when you talk about The Dependables, is that something you say a lot to them? Is that something they are aware of as far as what checks all the boxes of what goes that?

Rob Sale: "That's kind of coach Graham's deal. We are looking for guys who are dependable. That's the same thing if you're in the business world or if you're in the football business. You're looking for guys who will do the right thing, play at a high level of effort and toughness and know what they're supposed to be doing. That's what we're looking for."

SunDevilSource: Anything else jump out at you with any of the other reserve guys, whether that's (Alex) Losoya, (Connor) Humphreys, (Tyson) Rising, (Mason) Walter? I feel like Walter has improved quite a bit over the last couple years though he may not yet be exactly where he needs to be.

Rob Sale: "Yeah, he (Walter) will be fine. He will. We've got to get him a little stronger. We've got to get Alex and Connor better over the summer, got to get stronger. We've got to eliminate the mental mistakes to zero. That's the biggest difference between the ones and the twos, the mental errors. Not necessarily so much the physical talent, which there is a drop there usually, but you can cover it up with a kid who knows what he's doing every single situation."

SunDevilSource: How's it all going with the mesh given that the whole offensive staff is new with the exception of running backs coach John Simon? What's that been like working with (coordinator) Billy Napier, (wide receivers coach) Rob Likens and all you guys just getting together and talking about what you're going to be an how you're going to get there?

Rob Sale: "Me and Billy there was no hiccup as an o-line coach and offensive coordinator. That's obviously how I got the job. We speak the same language, we're on the same page when I walk in the door on day one. You save hours and hours when those two coaches are on the same page. It becomes easy when you coach the running backs and wide receivers because now you've got two coaches communicating the same thing, not just one communicating it to three or four coaches. Me and Billy have the same background, we're on the same page. I'm excited to work with him and work for him. He's a dang good football coach, going to do some good things."

SunDevilSource: Your talent level seems pretty good overall on offense. You have two senior backs, some good wide receivers, (junior) Jay Jay Wilson has a lot of potential at tight end. Is it your impression that you've got enough talent to accomplish what you hope to?

Rob Sale: "Yeah we do. The questions will be the tight ends and the offensive line groups. Do we have enough tight ends? The nature of what they did in the past, they weren't in the same personnel groupings we'll use as much. So we've got to recruit up and coach up the tight end position and get all of our guys, Hudson, Bubak, Christian HIll up to speed. Injury happens, you need guys to step up into a bigger role. It's an important room for us. Their summer development is going to be huge for us as well."

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