Getting to know ASU football’s new coaching hires

Feb 5, 2021, 12:05 PM | Updated: 12:31 pm

Syracuse Orange Offensive Lineman Coach Mike Cavanaugh greets players after scoring a touchdown dur...

Syracuse Orange Offensive Lineman Coach Mike Cavanaugh greets players after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter of the Connecticut Huskies versus the Syracuse Orange game on September 22, 2018 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The three newest members of Arizona State football’s coaching staff were introduced on a Zoom call Wednesday, where each coach outlined their goals for their position groups and why they decided to make the move to Tempe. 

Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh 

Cavanaugh makes his return to the Pac-12 after a three-year stint at Syracuse and assumes the role of Dave Christensen, who retired following the 2020 season. 

Cavanaugh coached on Mike Riley’s staff at Oregon State for 10 years and wanted to make a return to coach out west.  

“Coaching in this conference is one of the things that really intrigued me to come back out here,” Cavanaugh said. “Week in and week out it’s tough competition. It’ll be fun.”   

Cavanaugh brings 35 years of coaching experience to the Sun Devil program and brings a simple coaching philosophy with him.  

“Two words: Toughness and technique,” Cavanaugh said. “We want to be real physical in the room and establish the run game, protect the quarterback when we’re throwing it. Toughness and technique, I pride myself in it. We’re going to work hard on all our technique, and we’re going to get after it.”  

Despite not having the opportunity to meet any of his linemen, Cavanaugh has liked what he’s seen on tape from a group that only allowed six sacks in four games last season.  

“I’m really excited about this group,” Cavanaugh said. “I’ve watched quite a bit of film, and we’ve got a good group so I’m looking forward to working hard and developing these guys and working hard daily on technique. Repetition is the greatest teacher.”  

Tight ends coach Adam Breneman 

Breneman is a familiar face, as he served as a graduate assistant for the Sun Devils in 2020. 

Breneman preaches versatility and said he’s excited to work with his guys in spring practice.

Breneman said he wants to make sure his tight ends know the offense inside and out, so offensive coordinator Zak Hill can maximize flexibility with personal packages. 

“Hopefully, we see them develop as true tight ends who can do anything all over the field,” Breneman said. “One of the things that I hang up in our tight end room is the word ‘versatile.’ At tight end, you’re judged on your receiving ability, your blocking ability, you got to be smart, you got to be able to pass protect, you got to do a lot of different things.”  

Linebackers coach Chris Claiborne 

While this is Claiborne’s first stint with ASU, he’s already a familiar face. 

Claiborne and Sun Devils defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce were teammates on the New York Giants in 2005 and coached together at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California. 

Claiborne, who was a First-Team All-American and a Butkus Award winner at USC, didn’t hesitate to leave his alma mater to join the Sun Devils coaching staff. 

While Pierce played a big role in getting Claiborne to Tempe, the entire coaching staff and culture made the decision to move from Los Angeles to Tempe easy for Claiborne. 

“When I stepped in the building to do the interview, the other coaches made me feel welcome so when it came down to deciding between leaving USC and coming here, it wasn’t hard,” Claiborne said. “The coaching staff, they just made me feel so welcome just on the interview. I can only imagine spending time over the next couple of months with them and how it will be.”  


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