Versatile is the first word that comes to mind when describing the play of Antonio Longino.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound linebacker began his career with the Sun Devils primarily on the weak-side, however over the course of his career appeared in multiple alignments, including DevilBacker.
In the regular season of his senior year, Longino racked up 10 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 60 total tackles. He was surprisingly omitted from the all-conference teams despite the strong showing, and still to this point hasn't garnered too much attention.
Below, we'll break down what traits and abilities make Longino a desirable NFL prospect, and which areas he could stand to make improvements in.
One of the things about Todd Graham's defensive scheme is that linebackers usually benefit statistically because of the positioning it can place them in, which is something I now realize I never clearly stated in the piece attempting to decipher why Longino was passed up for the all-conference team. It may or may not have been a factor.
What makes Longino intriguing (like Chris Young and Carl Bradford before him) is that production wasn't completely scheme-related. He's instinctive -- a trait that coaches at the next level should be able to work with and hopefully develop.
Longino isn't going to be someone whose name gets brought up when discussing hip flexibility, ankle contortion, or anything else referring to impressive agility.
However, while he isn't the most athletic linebacker in this class, he does have a quick first step and understands how to throw his weight around. In tandem with his positioning, he was able to establish a presence in opponents' backfields often throughout the 2015 season.
Longino also displayed some discipline on the edge, often fulfilling his role as a run-defender before reacting.
Strengths: Explosion, Positioning/Instinct (against the run), Motor, Diagnosing Plays
The senior linebacker isn't a gambler, but works to find the ball. As aforementioned, he isn't afraid to throw his weight around either, which can make for some devastating hits.
His best trait is arguably his ability against the run. Longino can beat less-athletic tackles one-on-one, shooting by them inside after patrolling the edge of the line of scrimmage, then picking a moment to cut back towards the interior.
Weaknesses: Pass Rushing Moves/Creativity, Agility, Finishing Plays
My biggest concern with Longino is his lack of creativity when rushing the passer off the edge.
When not presented a clear rushing lane to the passer, he rarely presented any counter moves to offensive tackles, and as a result would get locked with offensive linemen at times. This was true for the most part until towards the latter stages of the season, where he occasionally attempted rip and spin moves instead of a straight bullrush.
It also could be argued that this was a matter of him doing what he's asked to do, considering there are a numerous amount of times where he does get "stuck" but he has his head up, peeking in the backfield while doing so in order to get into the best position possible.
Longino also struggled with consistently wrapping up the ball carrier, and it was most apparent on a couple of plays where he had a free shot on the opposition's quarterback.
Still, he is very good at absorbing contact in the trenches, and shedding blocks to enter the opposition's backfield.
Projection: 5th-6th round
Position: 3-4 Weak-side Linebacker (WILL)
Pre-Draft News: East-West Shrine Game Participant (4 tackles, 1 TFL)
Some meetings I'm told happened at East-West Shrine Game practices: Lloyd Carrington and the Colts, Antonio Longino and the Chargers— Nick Krueger (@NickPKrueger) January 22, 2016
Antonio Longino, ASU edge rusher. Remember that name.— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) December 31, 2015
Christian McCaffrey highlights our 2015 All-Pac-12 team -- at more positions than one. https://t.co/exmOrNtMw2
— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 7, 2015
Takeaway: After a strong senior season, Longino rightfully was considered a mainstay of the Sun Devils defense, and it should benefit his chances of making it in the NFL.
What teams would be getting right now is a raw player who makes up for lack of elite athleticism with smart, disciplined play, along with versatility. His strength lies in his ability in defending against the run, while he remains a project as a pass rusher. Should he receive an invite to the NFL Combine, any flash of above average athleticism would be of great benefit for his stock.