Paul Randolph Q&A

When a returning All-American such as Will Sutton is recognized for his effort in practice, one can expect the rest of the defense to follow the defensive lineman's lead . Consequently, Arizona State's defensive coordinator has been pleased with the effort set forward by his group in spring practice. Devils Digest's Courtney Baker caught up with Paul Randolph following today's spring game.

DevilsDigest: With spring practice nearing a close, how satisfied are you with the progress of this group?

Paul Randolph: "You know what; I'm extremely satisfied with the guys. I think guys understood what we were trying to get accomplished this spring. They've really worked their tails off in that direction of trying to accomplish our goals for the spring so I'm really excited. I think we got better. I thought we got better fundamentally, which was really our top goal, getting better fundamentally. I think we did that."

DevilsDigest: Being versatile is a staple of this defense. Was there an extra emphasis to enhance this aspect in the spring?

Paul Randolph: "No, just to get better. I guess that's enhancing, but for us, it was just the guys getting more comfortable, more knowledgeable, and having a greater understanding of what we do and how we do it. I think we accomplished that also. "

DevilsDigest: Being awarded the Pat Tillman practice jersey is a great honor, but how much more of a statement is it when someone like Will Sutton is awarded it?

Paul Randolph: Will is a leader because of the way he plays on game day. He garters the respect of his whole team on game day. Wearing that Pat Tillman jersey signifies that he's a leader and he's a worker. Hardest working guy in our group during practice, going to class, and all those things this spring. He's really stepped his game up to that level of leadership that we really need and for him. He understands that winning the award for the conference last year was great, but to wear that jersey here, and represent that to our team and to his team was really a big step for him this off-season."

DevilsDigest: Do you think him be awarded the jersey really stresses the fact that no one can rest on their laurels and still need to prove themselves every practice?

Paul Randolph: "I think there's no question about it. Will came back. He had a couple goals: to graduate, he wanted to help lead us to a championship, and I think he wanted to get better. I think in his work ethic this spring, I think he's accomplishing every bit of that. His grades are extremely well. He's worked his tail off there. He's working as hard as he possibly can on the practice field, so he's improved in that area. Being the leader that we need, you got to have the leadership of the players and I think he's done a phenomenal job so far right now in leading our defense for sure."

DevilsDigest: Carl Bradford is another player that has had a great spring. What has he improved on from last year?

Paul Randolph: "I think just understanding his position. His position is the hybrid position. It's extremely versatile, but with that comes a lot of fundamental technique. He has to have some d-line fundamentals and some linebacker fundamentals. I think it took him a little while last fall to start really understanding the difference of the two. I think he furthered his knowledge of that position this spring."

DevilsDigest: Do you feel that the pass rush element is as good as it can be and better than last year?

Paul Randolph: "I think we've gotten better at that element, but I think it's got to get better. No question. We're never satisfied as coaches. I think we absolutely have to continue to improve upon our pass rush ability and our ability to impact the quarterback."

DevilsDigest: Stopping the run was one of the main goals coming into spring. How do you feel the defense has done in that area over the last few weeks?

Paul Randolph: "I think we've improved. I think we've gotten better at it. There's still a lot of ground to improve upon where we're at right now, but I do think we've gotten better. Our mentality has gotten better towards stopping the run. I think that's the start of it. I do think we've improved and we got to continue to do that once we get back and put pads on this fall."

DevilsDigest: What do you think it will take for the defense to achieve this goal?

Paul Randolph: "It's just attitude and temperament. I think the guys coming together, which they are, and becoming one unit. I think this spring we made great strides into becoming that one unit."

DevilsDigest: Chris Young is someone that stepped up at linebacker in the spring. Can you talk about his progress?

Paul Randolph: "Absolutely. Chris came on the scene last year at Spur outside linebacker position. Through the course of the year in different packages, we played him inside. Chris is versatile. He's kind of like Carl (Bradford). He's hybrid. He can go outside backer or inside backer. I think this spring, his growth and understanding and maturity in both positions has really helped us and has added depth to our defense also. There's no question that he's improved upon his knowledge of both positions and it made him a better player and it's going to make him a better player."

DevilsDigest: Steffon Martin may have been the most improved linebacker in the spring. What has he done in the last few weeks to elevate his game?

Paul Randolph: "I think he's slowed down in his mind a little bit. He wants to do everything fast the way we coach, but there's certain things and fundamentals that you have to key and do and fundamental footwork, different things like that, and be right with the fundamentals. I think he's focused on being better in that area. We know he can run. We know he's aggressive. We know he doesn't mind tackling. It's just fundamentally taking care of things that would allow you to be a great player, which is the things that you do when the ball is snapped."

DevilsDigest: You have two senior anchors in the secondary in Alden Darby and Osahon Irabor. How much has their experience helped this group in the spring?

Paul Randolph: "You normally don't have defensive backs that are leaders, but there's no question about it, those two are seniors. They've earned their stripes. There's no doubt they're leading for us in every aspect; on the field, off the field, the way they work, and those types of things. They bring their game. Darby's got to contribute to the run. Osahon's going to have a couple of sacks on a package and have to contribute to stopping the run. I think their growth as being physical and wanting to be mentally and physically tough in their style of play I think is getting both of those. That's going to help our defense become better."

DevilsDigest: What defensive player do you feel really came under the radar into spring and is now one of the better performers on the team?

Paul Randolph: "I think Jaxon Hood has really improved. He played last year as a freshman. He was freshman All-American. Talking to Jaxon he's like ‘Coach, I was just trying to figure out what I was doing.' Now he has a better understanding of what we want him to do and also what he's supposed to do and the knowledge of his position and his playing ability. I think he's improved immensely this spring."

DevilsDigest: The offense has shown the defense a lot of different looks like The Pistol and two tight ends. Do you feel the defense did well with those formations and how much has these different schemes helped the overall development of the defense?

Paul Randolph: "I'll tell you what; in our league, you have to be versatile with the offenses that you defend. You've got Washington State, which is spread wide open; one-back, four-wide. You've got Stanford who's going to be three to four tight ends, extra linemen. Then you've got Oregon and their spread; very up-tempo.

"Seeing all those types of offenses; defensively you have to be prepared mentally and physically to defend each one of those teams. I think our offense, with as much offense that they present; I think it helps us because we see a lot of what we're going to see during the course of the year. So naturally, that's the development and knowledge of what you're seeing; how to defend it, and things of that nature."

DevilsDigest: With spring practice almost over is the defense as good as you would like it to be with fall camp less than four months away?

Paul Randolph: "I think we've had a really good spring. The guys know that we've got to get better this summer. That's with their off-season training with Coach Grizz through the summer; summer conditioning and all those types of things this summer. I'm glad we got those twenty-nine practices to continue our development before we kick off in the fall."


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