TEMPE, Ariz. — Todd Graham wanted a seamless transition from Mike Norvell to his next offensive coordinator. He couldn’t have done much better than Chip Lindsey.
Arizona State officially announced Lindsey’s hiring on Friday to replace Norvell, who was hired as the head coach at Memphis. Lindsey spent the past season as Southern Mississippi’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and was an offensive analyst for 2013-14 national runner-up Auburn under coach Gus Malzahn.
Malzahn was Graham’s offensive coordinator at Tulsa in 2007 and 2008, and Lindsey is a Malzahn disciple who has adopted a similar schematic approach to the one the Sun Devils employ.
“My familiarity with what’s already been done here makes this somewhat of an easy move,” Lindsey said. “The terminology is a little different but I don’t want to change that. I just want to use what they’ve had and make it even better.”
In 2015 under Lindsey, Southern Mississippi’s offense doubled its scoring output to 40.6 points and 519.8 yards per game. The Golden Eagles ranked No. 12 in the nation in scoring, first in explosive plays (20-plus yards) with 102 and eighth in yards per play (7.01).
A year after going 1-7 in Conference-USA play, Southern Miss finished 9-4 overall in the regular season, including a 7-1 mark in the West Division, which it won.
The Golden Eagles set a school record for total offense and quarterback Nick Mullens threw for a record 4,145 yards (seventh in the nation) and 36 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. Southern Miss also had two 1,000 yard rushers (Jalen Richard, Ito Smith), becoming just the second FBS team ever to accomplish the feat (Oklahoma, 2008).
“This offense has been one of the most prolific offenses in the country since 2007 and that goes back to our days at Tulsa,” Graham said. “Even with just the explosive plays, I know that’s something our fans want to see.”
As much as Graham wanted a coordinator who knew his offense, he said Tuesday that Lindsey’s background was just as big a factor.
“Being a teacher, being a head high school coach, all the reasons why he went into being a coach fits who we are,” Graham said. “I’m looking to hire great men that want to impact young people’s lives.”
In that respect, Lindsey said arriving early to help coach the Sun Devils in the Cactus Bowl against West Virginia on Jan. 2 will help speed the process.
“I think the most important thing in coaching is building a relationship with players,” Lindsey said. “They have to know you care about them before they care about what you know and in that regard, I know coach Graham’s beliefs are aligned with mine. In all the years he’s been a coach, he’s never forgotten that our No. 1 job is to do whatever we can do to help our players succeed; to create the best version of them on and off the field.”
Graham describes Lindsey as a quarterback guru and that will be a critical role for the Sun Devils next season. Mike Bercovici is graduating, leaving redshirt freshman Manny Wilkins, true freshmen Bruce Perkins and Brady White and incoming freshman Dillon Sterling Cole to battle for the starting job.
New ASU OC Chip Lindsey visiting four-star QB commit Dillon Sterling-Cole https://t.co/WkYs192s65
— SunDevilSource.com (@SunDevilSource) December 13, 2015
“We’ll go through spring ball, coach them and teach them and give them all the same number of reps,” Lindsey said. “We want to make it simple where their natural ability can take over. If they don’t feel comfortable and know what to do you can’t really see how good they are.”
“The biggest thing they need to know is that the slate is clean with me,” Lindsey added. “It doesn’t matter what came before.”