Q&A with Coach Paul Randolph

With the first week of fall practice in the books, it was a good time to catch up with ASU Senior Associate Head Coach & Defensive Coordinator, Paul Randolph, to discuss the defense's progress from spring camp through the first several sessions of camp.

Devils Digest: When you looked at film from last season what were some of the things that immediately stood out to you about the defense?

Paul Randolph: The first thing that stood out was the talent. I thought that there's no doubt we were a defense that had a lot of talent, a lot of ability and had guys that could play at this level and in this league.

Devils Digest: In recent years the Sun Devils have played primarily, if not solely, a 4-3 defense. Explain why you feel it's so important to be a diverse defense with multiple sets.

Paul Randolph: I just think that in today's time, with everything that offenses present you - all these different formations and such - and everything that they give us to work on all the time, I just want to give them something that they'll need to work on right back. So by being a multiple front and attacking scheme, a hybrid defense if you will, it gives them something to work on each and every day too.

In this conference, you have every possible kind of offense you can imagine. And then naturally, we feel that the talent that we have within our program fits our system.

Devils Digest: Can you expand on why you think the 3-4 front works so well for this defense and the personnel you have in place?

Paul Randolph: We have a lot of skilled guys, linebacker-wise. And up front, I think it allows us to have more depth in terms of our numbers on the defensive line. So defensive line-wise, it gives us more depth and linebacker-wise it allows us to have more athletic second to third level players and I think at most times there's more of those out there.

Devils Digest: In your estimation, how much 3-3-5 do you anticipate playing this season?

Paul Randolph: If I had it my way I think we would be perfectly balanced. I just think that we have the ideal personnel to run a variety of different looks.

Devils Digest: What is your ideal front to line up in; 40 front, 30 front or 3-3-5 and why?

Paul Randolph: Truthfully it just depends on your personnel. It really does. If you've got four big, grown men up front, defensive line-wise, and really you need about seven or eight of those, then you throw the four man front. If you've got five to six of those defensive linemen and about eight linebackers, then naturally some form of a 3-4 second level back scheme will fit you. So I think it's always important that you assess your talent and just know what system fits them the best.

Devils Digest: How much rotation do you anticipate on the defensive line and are there any players that will play more than one spot up front?

Paul Randolph: The way I train them is I train most all of them to play multiple spots across the front. They can play nose. They can play end. Probably the only one who won't play them all will be Mike Pennell. Jaxon Hood and Will Sutton can play every one of them. Even Davon Coleman can play every one of them. So that, to me, is a way that we can create versatility and depth, by having guys that can play multiple positions and play them well.

Devils Digest: Sun Devil fans have been clamoring for a defense with more designed blitzes. If you can, tell us have often do you plan to bring the heat and blitz the quarterback.

Paul Randolph: Well for us, we'd like to do it every single snap, but that's not realistic. Our goal is to be balanced and our players know that. We want to be well oiled and balanced, just like our offense.

Devils Digest: (Linebackers) Coach West recently said that he doesn't think that system you guys are teaching the players is too complex, just that there's a lot of information to absorb. Do you think there comes a time when you're trying to teach too much too soon? And how do you feel the players have done grasping the concepts you've been teaching them this offseason?

Paul Randolph: No question about that. And no we don't ever think it's too much information. We believe in just pouring it on, pouring it on, pouring it on. And then, you may have to come back and refine some of it, but we believe in pouring it on and seeing what their limitations are. So far, they haven't had any limitations. Everything we've thrown at them, they've soaked it in like sponges. And they're displaying it everyday at practice, so we're really excited about what they're taking in and learning, schematically.

Devils Digest: How do you think the players have responded overall to the change of culture Coach Graham and the entire staff has brought to ASU?

Paul Randolph: That's the one thing, we're trying to drive a team and family-like atmosphere and I think the guys are coming together and growing while they're learning. We call it 'not to conform, but to transform,' into the young men that we want them to be. I think that by doing that, guys are coming together and really embracing the change and are really excited about it. And I think they understand that it's no doubt beneficial to them and their success, both on and off the field.

Devils Digest: What players have impressed you the most in terms of development from spring camp until now?

Paul Randolph: I would say Anthony Jones, defensively, for sure. I would say Davon Coleman has improved vastly. And I would most definitely say Alden Darby. It's hard to believe that he can improve on anything, but he has just worked so hard. I would say Alden has got much better and truthfully, the entire group has. You watch them run around now and it's clear that whole unit has improved.

If you can remember back to spring and how they looked compared to now, conditioning-wise, to me the entire defense looks like completely different team.

Devils Digest: In the most recent ASU football television commercial, you say "the sky is the limit for Sun Devil football." Describe why you feel that way.

Paul Randolph: I just think from the top down, from President Crow all the way down through the administration to our coaches and our players and everyone that is involved in the Sun Devil family, I just think their support is there for us. I think the excitement is there right now. Our players feel it. They can thrive on it. But I just feel from the top down, everyone is ready for a winner and we're working to provide that for them.

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