Chip Long is the new tight end coach at Illinois. The former grad assistant tight end coach at Arkansas is eager to start this new phase of his coaching career.
"It's really exciting. It's kind of a dream come true. Ever since I was about three years old, I wanted to coach in a major college conference. A chance to coach in the Big 10 is just a huge blessing."
The sudden departure of Greg Nord created an opening that needed to be filled quickly. Fortunately, Long is single and was able to make the move on short notice.
"It's been a whirlwind. Two weeks ago I was just hanging out with my family in Birmingham. And then I got a call from Coach (Ron) Zook. I went back to Fayetteville, to Champaign, back to Fayetteville, back to Champaign. It's been a lot of driving, but it's a great deal."
The Illini needed someone familiar with Paul Petrino's offense with the season just around the corner. Long fits that job description well, having worked with both Petrino and quarterback coach Jeff Brohm.
"Yeah, we worked together at Louisville, and me and Paul went to Arkansas together. When they (Petrino and his brother Bobby) went to Atlanta, I stayed with Jeff and worked with the quarterbacks. But I've been with Paul and Bobby ever since."
He needs no one to give him a crash course in the Illinois offense.
"It's huge. Being able to come in right now, they're not having to come in off their vacation and sit in the film room all day. I can get moved in, hit recruiting hard, and then when they come in off their vacations we hit the ground running.
"It's not too bad. Luckily I'm coming into an offense I'm really familiar with. So now I'll just get a jump in recruiting. I'll get a chance to meet the guys and be around them. Knowing I'll have to be on the field with them, I'll have to watch a little bit of film on them.
"But I'm really excited. It's gonna be a good group. The biggest change is me getting to know the players and them know me and the way I coach. But it shouldn't be a big deal."
Long was actually considered for the job last winter.
"When Paul was thinking about (coming to the UI), he asked if I would go with him. But Coach Zook had some decisions to make, and Greg Nord was obviously a veteran coach and did a good job on the recruiting trail. It made sense."
Long is more experienced than many football coaches in their first assistant coaching job. Even though he was classified as a graduate assistant, he was the Arkansas tight ends coach the last two years. He is glad his title and salary finally match his job description.
"It is. I was thankful for Coach (Bobby) Petrino giving me the job at such a young age, and it's paid off."
Illini fans will be pleased to learn Long wants to pass more to the tight end.
"Absolutely. Coach Petrino has D.J. Williams, a preseason All-American (at Arkansas). His first season he caught 61 balls, and he caught about 30 the next. We need to get the tight ends going here."
Grad assistants are not allowed to travel for recruiting purposes. But Long is far from a novice when it comes to recruiting. He was involved with a star St. Louis running back who picked the Razorbacks over the Illini.
"Yeah, but we still did a lot of recruiting at Arkansas. I was able to get Ronnie Wingo there and a couple more kids from Joplin. So I've been recruiting Missouri pretty well in the past few years.
"The biggest difference is going out on the road. But everything else we've been pretty much exposed to. It won't be that big a change."
Long will likely take over some of Nord's recruiting territory while adding familiar areas.
"I think so. He did a good job in Georgia, and then I think I might be doing a little more in Alabama since that's where I'm originally from. It depends on Coach Zook, but that's kind of what I've been told."
He is not real familiar with the Big 10, but Long has seen enough at Illinois to believe they can be competitive.
"Just from the little bit of film I've seen, on defense they have better looking players than we had at Arkansas. I know in the past they went to the Rose Bowl a couple years ago. I don't really know as much as I need to know. But I've obviously followed the Big 10, and it's been exciting. I need to learn more."
He is an advocate of a conference championship afforded with the addition of Nebraska.
"I think it's a great addition. You get to that championship game, that's just another game to get another team in a BCS bowl.
"From the outside looking in, the Big 10 season usually ends at the end of November, and then you have about 50 days until a bowl game. With that championship game, they're still playing games and everyone is still watching. There's more exposure, and I think it's a good deal."