Q&A with ASU tight ends coach Chip Long

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By Brad Denny By Brad Denny

TEMPE, Ariz. -- One of the bright spots from Arizona State's loss to Notre Dame came at tight end, where the dup of Chris Coyle and De'Marieya Nelson provided good blocking and some timely catches in the passing game.

The playmaking duo of Coyle and Nelson at "3-back"—a versatile variant of the tight end—and Darwin Rogers, playing more in blocking situations, continue to be unsung heroes for the Sun Devils.

I talked with ASU tight ends coach Chip Long to get his evaluation of his group's performance and what he will be expecting this Saturday against Colorado. 

What was your evaluation of how the tight ends played against Notre Dame?

“I think they did alright. I think De’Marieya played as good a game he’s played since he’s been here. Chris obviously was really solid, did a great job on the perimeter, and made plays when was needed to. De’Marieya Nelson had as good a game as he’s had since he’s been here. The way he just dominated on the edge. Made plays when we needed him to, and that was great to see.”

How far has De'Marieya Nelson come since he arrived in Tempe?

“You can’t measure how far he’s come. His first couple of days here, he was just trying to make it. Just to see how far he has come and the work he has put in, it’s been great. He’s one of our best special teams players, makes just about every single play. He’s probably one of our most physical players, and one of the best all-around football players on our team, in my opinion. We’ve done a good job just giving him certain things in the offense to grow on. He’s done a great job of that and he’s going to keep growing.”

Will we see him more involved with the offense going forward?

“There’s no question. We always have a big package for him. Opportunities aren’t always there, but that doesn’t mean he’s not getting someone else open. He’s going to be a big, big time playmaker in this offense for a long time.”

While his numbers aren't what they were a year ago, do you think Chris Coyle is a better player this season?

“There’s no question he’s a better tight end than he was last year, with the way he can block, protect, and still run routes. This year, we have Jaelen Strong, one of the leaders in the country in receptions. You want a receiver leading in receptions, you don’t necessarily want a tight end who’s leading the team in receptions. That means you’re probably not getting too many big plays. He doesn’t worry about that. His No. 1 deal is winning and whatever he has to do to help his team win. As an all-around tight end, he’s a whole lot better.”

How have Chris Coyle and Darwin Rogers come along as mentors to the younger guys?

“They’ve done a good job. Kody Kohl is coming along. They’ve helped De’Mariya a whole lot. They do a good job of explaining how I do things in practice, how I coach, how I demand things. It’s good seeing them come along.”

Do you think that the tight ends will see a larger role in the blocking game with the recent struggles of the offensive line?

“Nothing is going to change. They’ve done a great job. The O-line, the past three games, has done a great job in my opinion getting after it. They are only going to get better. They have a good chemistry with the tight ends. We work a lot together, and we expect the run game to get better and better every week.”

What have been the areas of focus this week in practice?

“Everything. We’re constantly getting better in our run technique. These guys haven’t come from this offense. Some were big receivers in high school, or defensive players, or running backs. Every day, you have to master your technique and expect to make plays. Everything a tight end has to do, every day we’re perfecting it. There’s not one thing in particular.”

How does the Colorado defense like to defend the tight end position?

“They do a good job. They like to play a little man on third downs. You don’t see them try to bracket or anything. They haven’t faced a tight end in the previous games that was a dominating player. We have a pretty good idea of what they are going to do. They might roll a safety down in run support to add another guy in the box or to man our guys up. We have to be ready for anything.”

What do you want to see from your players against the Buffaloes?

“I want them to come out and play hard. Our No. 1 goal: We want to be the most physical group out there. If they are physical at the point of attack, they are going to do a great job running routes. They are going to make plays. That means they are focused, ready to go, and excited to play. I love seeing them play with passion. If you have those things, you are going to play well no matter what. Mainly I want us to be physical, and then make plays. When my number is called, make the play.”