Q&A With Coach Jeff Grimes

On his last day as ASU's offensive line coach, DevilsDigest caught up with Coach Grimes for one final interview. Among the topics of discussion was a review of the offensive linemen in the 2004 recruiting class, a 2003 season recap from that position's perspective, and Grimes' sentiments as he leaves Tempe to become BYU's offensive line coach.

DevilsDigest: Coach, let's start by discussing the incoming freshmen on the offensive line. What can you tell us about each of the following players?

Jeff Grimes: Jonathan Lehman - "Jonathan was a kid that was very under recruited. Not a whole lot of people knew about him for a couple of reasons. Number one, he's from a small town of 5,000 people. The only way I found out about him was one of my best friends was an assistant coach there, and he called me about him."

"The other reason is that he's kind of ‘tweener' in his position. He played tight end and defensive line, but probably wasn't fast enough to play at this (Pac-10) level. But he wasn't big enough for people to consider him an offensive lineman. He was 235 lbs. during his senior year. But when we had him on campus he weighed in at 267 lbs. He has a big frame on him. Some people are scared off when an offensive lineman isn't weighing 280,300 lbs as a senior. I think he'll play big enough. He has all the intangibles. He's smart. He finishes his blocks well, and is an extremely hard working kid. When he signed the letter of intent with us, I asked him if he was taking the day off from working out and he said ‘no way. This is a big day, but not important enough to miss a workout over (smile).' He can play either tackle or guard."

Bradis McGriff: "Bradis (pronounced bredees) was a kid a lot of people knew about. He's from the city and he's a huge kid. He's 6-5 310 lbs or so. He went to the Northern California combine last summer, and everyone was impressed with him there. I thought that he was without question the best offensive lineman there. He committed to Cal, so a lot of people backed off of him. (ASU's quarterbacks coach) Mark Helfrich gave him a call in the early fall, and said ‘you were interested in us in May. Is there still a possibility that you're still interested?' He said ‘yes I am. I'm committed to Cal, but I don't know if that's what I want to do necessarily.' So he visited us."

"He's a big guy that is flexible. He has good feet. He can be a guard or a tackle. I like his attitude a lot. He's a nice kid that plays hard on the field, and is a basketball player too. I really think he'll be a great player."

Brent Russum: "He's about the same size as Lehman. Again, a guy that's very intelligent, very athletic. He's somewhat of a project because he's not as big or strong as he needs to be right now. But sometimes those guys that aren't as big or strong, but are really athletic, end up being the best players in the long run because you take that athleticism and build them up over time. If they have all the intangibles, which I think they both do, they become big and athletic guys. Watching him practice basketball, I had no question about his athletic ability. He's very fluid too, and pulled a lot to block linebackers and safeties. I would think he should start off as a tackle because that's what he played in high school. He showed a pretty good capacity to pass block on the edge."

Leo Talavou: "Leo is a monster. He's not as tall as Bradis, but like a lot of Samoan kids he's almost as wide as his tall (smile). To me he's exactly what you look for in a guard. He's a ‘people mover' that knocks those defensive tackles off the ball. He was highly recruited. We had him in our camp last summer, and we got to know each other. Coach Osborne and I got to build a relationship with him, and he committed to us early and stuck with it. We're thrilled to have him."

DD: Let's shift gears and recap the 2003 season from the offensive line perspective. What are your thoughts on how this unit performed last year?

JG: "When you have a season like we did last year, I don't think you can really be pleased with any aspect of the team. Any piece you refer to didn't do well enough to have the success on the field that we should have. There were a lot of things we've could have done better as an offensive line."

"But on the other side of that, I'm pleased with how the group came together. It took a little bit of time for them to gel. They haven't played a lot together, and some of them played in different positions. I was pleased with the unity and camaraderie within the group. We had some guys that shared time, and I never heard them complaining. It was never a hindrance on the field."

DD: Was it personally gratifying to you that your unit, which was heavily criticized in 2002, made a 180-degree turn in 2003?

JG: "I think there's always a sense of accomplishment when you see the guys you coach get better. But I think too much of it can be made be either way. You're not as good as people say you are, and you're not as bad as people say you are. The year before we played with guys out of position, and with guys that we knew weren't ready to play. Given those scenarios, and accomplish what we did as a team and go to the Holiday Bowl, I was proud that we were able to contribute to that."

"On the flip side this side this year, even though the offensive line came together and became better as a group, they (the offensive line) were very disappointed that they didn't do enough to help us win more ball games, and get us in a bowl."

DD: Granted, you're moving on to a new team. Nevertheless, how do you project the offensive line coming into spring practice? This group has lost some valuable senior players such as Regis Crawford. How do you think this unit is shaping up for the 2004 season?

JG: "The thing that's exciting about next year is that you have competition. Part of problem the year before last is that we didn't have much competition. Sometimes guys don't get better because of that. This year they'll be a lot of competition, and spring ball will be a great opportunity for guys to show what they've got."

DD: Talk about the importance of having senior Drew Hodgdon coming back this year. Do you think he'll be the undisputed leader of the group?

JG: "He'll be the leader of the group for two reasons. First, he's senior. He played more than anyone else. Second, that guy works like no other. In my 11 years as a coach, I've never seen any guy at any position work harder than that guy. He's lays it on the line every day that he shows up. He lives the weight room, and does whatever he needs to do to be the best that he can be. Guys respect that and will follow him into battle. I also think that Graying Love could be another big leader on this group."

DD: In regards to your new position at BYU, you were quoted as making this move due to family reasons. Does that specific reason make this move easier to make?

JG: "Sure. For me personally, making a decision that is based on my family gives me the ultimate peace knowing I made the right decision. I believe that if you make a decision for the right reasons, you won't go wrong."

"I'm certainly sad to leave here, and I'm torn about this decision. I'm leaving Dirk (Koetter), a guy that has been good and loyal to me. Anytime you make a move like this, you feel like you're bailing out on somebody. But at the same time you have to do what's best for his family and what's best for the situation. ASU was a great opportunity for me, and I'll always be grateful for Dirk. He's by far the best head coach that I worked for. I made a lot of friends on the staff, and I love them and I love all the players I coached. Leaving is always very hard." DD: As you leave ASU, can you list your top three fondest memories of your three plus years here?

JG: "I would say one of them is the production of the 2002 team. For us to be picked ninth in the Pac-10, and then finish third and go to the Holiday Bowl, that's obviously something I'll be proud of."

"Another memory, and this one is kinda funny, is at Camp T. It rained really hard one day, and as coaches we started putting down the tarp on the field. We then realized that we had the world's largest ‘slip ‘n slide' in front of us (smile). We were playing on that for a while. The players came back from being in town, and came out over to join us. We were out there for an hour or two, and that was just a fun time with all the coaches and the players laying our hair down."

"Coaching for me more than anything else, is hopefully making an impact on the lives of the guys that I coach. Hearing guys telling me that I was able to help them develop in one way or another – professionally, academically, socially, spiritually…players told me that helping them develop as men is sometimes more important that anything we do with them on the field."

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