Q&A with Paul Randolph

The Sun Devils concluded their weekly practice preparations Thursday morning as they get set to depart for this weekend's showdown with 11th ranked Oregon State up in Corvallis. Devils Digest caught up with defensive coordinator Paul Randolph to get his impressions of the Beavers' offense, along with the status of a couple ASU defensive playmakers and his take on last week's narrow defeat.

His assessment of the defense's overall performance last Saturday in the home defeat to UCLA

Randolph: "I thought that we played sporadically. We played good in some spurts and then played bad in some spurts. I thought we played hard for the most part though. The guys played with a lot of intensity and passion and energy. And then at other times, it just wasn't there. It was a real up and down game for us, but with all that said, we still had a chance to win at the end. We just did not make a play when we really needed to make a play. That's something that we've been able to do all year, but we just couldn't find a way to do it on that last drive."

On the play-calling of the Bruins and missed assignments by the Sun Devil defense

Randolph: "They did a real good job of preparing for us. I thought we had done a decent job of preparing for them. I think their quarterback had a really good game. We just couldn't tackle him. That was probably the biggest thing; we just couldn't get our hands on Hundley. He made plays with his feet and his arm, but especially his feet to keep drives alive for them. And then of course we made some bone-head mistakes that really helped them, like the personal foul on the quarterback, which was on a third own and we should have been off the field at that point. And then, like in most cases when you have a penalty like that, it resulted in points for their offense. That just comes back to discipline, which is something we lost a little bit. We've got to focus more on our discipline and get back to no penalties as a team, especially on defense."

On the confidence of the defense after two consecutive home defeats in which the opposing offenses each amassed 400+ yards and 40+ points

Randolph: "Our confidence is great! We're still the number one defense in the Pac-12. We've just got to play like it and execute. But I think our confidence is fine. Our guys still believe in the system. We're hybrid and attacking and we're going to continue to be hybrid and attacking. We're not going to change what we do. We've just got to get back to flying around and making plays, which is what we did in the first five or six games of the season."

On the play of Mike Pennel last week, coming off a suspension

Randolph: "I thought Mike played really well and he should have. Yeah he's been out, but he's the freshest guy on the team. Naturally, he played with it and played with a purpose and lots of passion and energy, and that's something that Mike has always done. So it was nice to get him back. We got him back a little earlier than we thought we'd get him, but of course it was good to just have him out there. He really worked his tail off last week during practice and he played that way also. Mike has had another great week of preparation this week, so he should play well again."

On the play of reserves Gannon Conway and Toa Tuitea who have contributed in the recent weeks as injuries have set in on the defensive line

Randolph: "I thought both of them did a whale of a job last week. We were down bodies and during the week they worked and prepped like they do every week. They understand that at some point during the season they're going to be called on to play and need to step up. Heck, I think Gannon played something like 30 snaps for us. When they've been called on, they've been ready to play and that's a testament to their intelligence and work ethic. They're both very smart football players. And also, their commitment to the team and knowing what they're supposed to do."

On the recent play of the linebackers

Randolph: "Well I think they're progressing. They're progressing right along on a pace where we need them to be. We all started off as gangbusters at the beginning of the season and everyone is just trying to get to where they're hitting their stride. Not coasting, but finding their stride to where they're gaining something every day. I think they're working their tails off, fundamentally, which is the key to being successful. They're progressing as a group, progressing right along.

"And then naturally, as the season moves along opponents will try to counter them and come up with new ways of attacking our defense or attacking the linebackers or whomever they want to attack, so each week it's going to be different and we've talked to our guys about that. Each week, going into the game, we're not sure who's going to have to be the guy or the unit, it just depends on how the opponents attack. So one week, Will's numbers may be off the chart and the next week Davon's number might be off the chart. It just depends week in and week out."

His impressions of the Oregon State offense overall

Randolph: "They have quarterback that's a field general. He manages and runs, I imagine, the offense the way Coach Riley wants it run. And then they've got the two speed guys at wide receiver that can take it to the house from just about anywhere on the field. They're highly explosive. And then they've got a nice run game to complement the pass game. I think, as balanced as they are, and as explosive as they can be, it's no wonder why they're number eleven in the country."

On Cody Vaz, who will start this week for Oregon State at quarterback

Randolph: "I see a guy who takes care of the football. I see a guy who knows how to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers. That's exactly what you want at quarterback and he does a truly good job managing the game for them and running that offense."

His concerns with the Sun Devil pass rush as they get set to face Oregon State on Saturday, the top rated passing team in the Pac-12

Randolph: "For us, pass rush against Oregon State is all about trying to impact the quarterback. It's not always about sacking the quarterback; it's about getting hits and pressures on him, batting balls and things like that. Our philosophy is impact the quarterback. Sacks? Yes. But we also want batted balls. We want incomplete passes, especially on third down so we can get off the field. If we can get some pressure and hurries it can led to interceptions. Those are things we've been talking to them about. And then naturally, as a unit, the back end knows that stems and stuff like that helps us. Getting pressure on the quarterback helps them. As a unit, we'll have a better job of defending the passing game against Oregon State if we can do that.

"But Oregon State has a really good passing game. They're very conscientious about protecting their quarterback and they do a really good job of doing that."

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