Q&A with Coach Paul Randolph

After a dominating performance by the defense on Thursday, this week's opponent provides a whole new set of challenges for Coach Paul Randolph and his defense. ASU's Defensive Coordinator talked with Devils Digest about the keys for the defense against Illinois this Saturday, as well as the performance of some of his players during the early portion of the season.

How would you rate his defense's performance last Thursday against NAU?

Paul Randolph: "I thought all of our guys played extremely hard. We talked to our guys about being relentless, chasing the football, making tackles for losses and owning the football. Based on those goals and our measurements, I thought they played very well. They played passionately, due to that we have a lot of things to correct from the game, but that's a great thing to have. It is always nice to have a big win, but also have room for improvement, it helps keep you humble."

How big of an accomplishment was it for the defense to not have a defensive penalty against NAU?

Paul Randolph: "For us it was huge, [and] that is our goal every game. We preached it during the Spring, and we were a little bit off that mark in the Spring. I think the guys have started to buy into our strategy and being disciplined. We measure discipline. We measure it by the number of penalties we don't have during the game. For us we were extremely disciplined in that aspect, [and] we now need to become disciplined in our technique. As far as penalties though, we accomplished our goal so I am excited and I think we did a great job."

How much progress has Toa Tuitea has made in the recent weeks and if he will make an impact for the defense?

Paul Randolph: "Toa has been working and fighting. He played a little bit in the game on Thursday and I thought he did a great job. I think his injuries have hindered him, but I think it is getting better day by day. I was real pleased with the reps that he got yesterday and today. So I think he is on pace to be back and to make a full recovery. I hope he makes an impact on Saturday, [as] he's going to play I can tell you that. He will be ready to play and contribute on Saturday."

What challenges does Illinois' quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase he presents to the defense?

Paul Randolph: "As a defensive line coach you don't sleep much at night, because you know he can escape the pocket and make plays and hurt you. Naturally we have to be rush conscience and make sure not to over commit as we try to pressure him. As a defensive coordinator the goal is to pressure him and make him do things he doesn't want to do. He is very talented though. He has good feet and can scramble really well. He also has a great arm and is very accurate on deep ball. It's going to be tough to contain him on Saturday."

How will the defensive line prepare to face Illinois' offensive line and their zone blocking scheme?

Paul Randolph: "We prepare each week during camp to face all types of offenses. It helps that our offense is a zone blocking offense, so we just work hard every day. The zone is becoming the more popular style of blocking so it is key that we learn how to play against it. The Illinois offensive line is very talented though, [and] they have good foot work and are very good at creating holes. So it will be a tough task, but we need to keep preparing to be ready against the zone."

What is the status of Mike Pennel and why he is on the scout team?

Paul Randolph: "He is just working his way back. He's been working in and out the whole camp. Now he is working his way back and I am excited about him [and] he's working hard trying to get better. I am excited about his attitude, that's why I run with him after practice. We just talk about what he needs to do to improve. Today I gave him a list of things to work on and he told me that's the [list of] things he's going to focus on to improve. The good thing about him being on the scout team is that he gets every rep, and if you get every rep you have a great chance to get better."

How do you feel about Pennel's progress during the fall camp and has he met expectations?

Paul Randolph: "No doubt he has met my expectations. We have all been up and down, but he is progressing like I thought he would be. It's hard to be taught completely new fundamentals, and naturally he was taught something different the last two years. So he is adjusting and is working to improve upon his game."

What kind of input have coaches Ron West and Chip Long given you as you form the game plan against Illinois ?

Paul Randolph: "Both of them have had a big time impact [because] they know the personnel. College football is personnel driven. They [Illinois} have completely new coaches and schemes, but the personnel is constant. Coach West and Coach Long bring their expertise on the players that they coached, and we can use that in forming the game plan."

What is the key for the defense that will help ASU to beat Illinois?

Paul Randolph: "We need to stop the run. We need to stop that zone run. No matter who you play the first priority has to be to stop the run."

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