ASU Football: Q&A with TE coach Chip Long

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By Brad Denny By Brad Denny

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Losing a first-team All-Pac-12 player is never a positive, but Arizona State is not sweating the departure of Chris Coyle too much.

That's no slight to Coyle, who caught 86 passes for 1,119 yards and nine touchdowns over the last two seasons. It just speaks to the confidence that the coaching staff has in the talent level that the Sun Devils will bring to the tight end and 3-back position in 2014.

I caught up with Sun Devil tight ends coach Chip Long to get his thoughts on Coyle's legacy, the multi-talented De'Marieya Nelson, and what fans should expect from the position in 2014.

After nearly three weeks into spring ball, how do you feel your tight ends have performed?

“I’m really proud of them. It’s just the two of them, and they are doing a great job. They’re tough, they’re learning every day. You see them getting better and better. You see them getting more and more confident in the offense. They are playing better because of it, and it’s a great thing to see.”

You lost a first-team All-Pac-12 player in Chris Coyle. What legacy and standard has he left behind in Tempe for this current group of tight ends?

“One word: toughness. He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached. Played hurt. Whatever situation there was, he was there to play. I hope that he left that legacy with these guys. You can see it. They’re still fighting through it, and there is still some growth to be made there. His toughness, his desire, and coming every day to work. Those are what they need to take from him, and they’ll be great players.”

How far has De’Marieya Nelson come over his one year in Tempe?

“He’s a completely different player. He was trying to find out where we eat meals when he first got here and where we practice. Now he’s getting more comfortable. He’s understanding the scheme, how he can be utilized, and how he can take advantage of this offense and have a tremendous year. That’s what we expect out of him. We expect a big year, to carry that load and to be even better than Chris was.”

What has impressed you most about what Nelson brings on the field?

“His explosiveness. He’s so physical and is so explosive in his legs. All the different things he can do: running the ball, running routes, special teams. He’s an all-around great player. The more comfortable he gets and the more in shape he gets, the better he’s going to get.”

With his versatile skillset, how do you envision utilizing him in 2014?

“We’re going to do him like we did Chris. He’ll be able to run the ball a bit more, but everything Chris did, he’ll have to do even better. We expect him to hopefully break Chris’ record his junior year.”

How do you feel the redshirt year benefited Grant Martinez?

“It’s changed his whole body and his whole mindset. He’s put on 20 to 25 pounds. He’s getting more comfortable. Grant just needs to play. It’s a lot different when you come from the outside in from that briar patch. Things are moving different and moving faster. He’s just got to get used to that. He’s just got to play, but he’s getting better and better every day. Really conscientious kid. Really tough kid. He’s going to be fine. He just needs time.”

What role do you think he Grant will play this year?

“They are all competing right now for 3-back. One thing that we’ve always done a good job with is finding roles for guys, whether it’s our two-tight end set, our goal line set. There is a spot. If he keeps coming like he’s coming, there’s going to be a spot for him.”

Kody Kohl has been dinged up a little bit. What are your expectations for him once he’s back and ready to go?

“I expect a lot out of Kody. I expect him to come and have a great year. This is year three for him. He knows the offense and helps teach the guys. He just needs to get out here and play. I expect a big year out of Kody, and I think we’ll have it.”

New recruit Brendan Landman is coming this fall. What do you feel he brings to the team and what impact can fans expect from him this year?

“I expect a lot out of Brendan. I expect all of my guys to come in and play day one. I want Brendan to come in in all of our heavy and goal line packages and be the guy. Obviously then to grow him into feeling more comfortable being there by himself or in two tight end packages. I expect him to come in ready to play.”

This will be the third season of this offensive scheme in Tempe. How do you feel the tight end and 3-back position has evolved during your time here?

“It all started with Chris. Mike (Norvell, offensive coordinator) and myself have always had great production out of the tight ends wherever we’ve been. The offense just naturally fits this. If you have a guy who can do all the things that we ask them to do and play fast, you’re naturally going to make great plays. You’re naturally going to have that ball in your hands. We expect De’Marieya take it to another level. He got to see Chris do it, so now he needs to put his personality on it and take it.”

What new wrinkles will fans see from the tight ends this fall?

“I think you’ll see De’Marieya playing a little more tailback, like he did towards the end of last year (15 carries, 53 yards, two touchdowns), in certain packages. You’ll see a lot of the same things. We’ll still do our two and three tight end sets that we like to do throughout the game.”