Q&A with Coach Paul Randolph

Thursdays‘s match up against Oregon, arguably the biggest game at Sun Devil Stadium in the past five years, will bring immense pressure for the Sun Devil defense to stop the highly explosive Oregon Duck Offense. Defensive Coordinator Paul Randolph talked with Devils Digest about the keys to the defense's success, as well as the performance of some of his players in the first half of the season.

With Oregon's speed and quickness on offense do you put even more emphasis on being disciplined, staying with your reads, and not try to do too much?

Randolph: "No doubt, every single week [we] put an emphasis on discipline. But Oregon is especially explosive, like we are, they like to run fast. There's no question with their ability to make big plays that it puts a premium on our guys to make sure we are doing exactly what we are supposed to do. We need to make sure we are on the line and tackling in space. They force you to be disciplined in order to have success against them."

Does game planning against Oregon's high tempo offense force you to deviate from your traditional defensive scheme?

Randolph: "Schematically, we are who we are. Our guys understand who we are and what our identity is. We have been successful in playing our type of defense, [and] our guys have confidence in our identity so we are going to stay true to who we are."

Do you feel that the conditioning program that the defense went through in the off-season will pay off against Oregon and their high paced offense?

Randolph: "No question, I think our guys understand the tempo that Oregon will want to play at. Our offense is a ‘hurry up' style of offense, so our guys have experience practicing against a high paced offense. They understand how fast Oregon is and that they need to be ready on every snap. That is our battle cry on defense, ‘get ready for the next snap'. Good, bad or ugly the last snap is over and we need to be prepared for the next one."

It's so easy to get over-hyped for a game like this. Do you feel that your group is as calm and collected as you want them to be?

Randolph: "I think our guys understand that this is step four of the quest for us in the PAC-12. Their mental approach has been the same this week as it has been for every PAC-12 opponent. That's the best thing about it. They understand that this is just the next step and we need to prepare and be ready to play like in games previous to this one."

What is your game plan to contain Kenjon Barner?

Randolph: "Our game plan is to tackle him. That's about all you can do against a playmaker of his caliber, our focus will be to tackle him."

Playing against Freshman QB Marcus Mariota, do you feel that it is important to get off to fast start defensively to keep the fans in the game?

Randolph: "Well I think for us that is extremely important. Our defense plays with emotion and we play with enthusiasm. Naturally that is dependent on how we are playing on the field. For us we always want to start fast and finish strong. Our game plan is to start the game off at a fast pace and work throughout the game on finishing strong."

Which player on defense has made the biggest impact in your mind from Fall camp until right now at the mid-point of the season?

Randolph: "We have a couple of guys who have had great starts to their season. Our biggest thing as a defense is that we came together as a unit. Our secondary guys have really improved. They have been getting better every single day and every single week. In our eyes our defense as a unit has gotten to the point where they play as one. They play for each other and feed off each other's success. For us our success as a defense is due to all the players' commitment to each other and playing together as a unit."

Is there one defensive stat you feel that if you accomplish on Thursday you will win the game?

Randolph: "For us it's turnovers. We want to get the ball back to our offense as fast as we can."

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