Q&A with Paul Randolph

With fall camp winding down and the start of the 2013 season quickly approaching for Arizona State, Devils Digest caught up with Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach Paul Randolph to discuss the defense's approach to stopping the run, the depth, and who has been the breakout player of the offseason for the linebackers.

On the play of the linebackers throughout the offseason:

Paul Randolph: "I'm extremely comfortable with them. There's not really any uncertainty, to me. What we're doing is creating depth and I'm really excited about it. I think I have about four or five guys right now that can be plugged into any number of positions and play it. So I'm really excited about where we are right now. I think we're bigger, we're stronger, we're faster.

"Salamo Fiso is coming along and attacking like gangbusters. Carlos Mendoza was moving forward (before the injury). Antonio Longino is at the SPUR linebacker spot now. And then we have Anthony Jones. So we've got a number of guys who are interchangeable and that's the thing I like about them."

On who has stood out the most throughout the offseason:

Paul Randolph: "I would say, at least for this fall camp, it would be Salamo Fiso. Salamo has done a phenomenal job. Now it's about just getting him to be consistent at it, which he's working to do. But I think he's done a really good job this fall camp. I think he's improved in every area, including run stopping and his pass defense, and I really think his knowledge of the game has grown, along with the knowledge of our system and those types of things, which has really helped him this fall camp.

"He can play SAM or WILL and he's one of those guys we talk about , just like Chris (Young), who can play WILL or SPUR. Salamo can play SAM or WILL. So it makes them interchangeable and gives us that depth that we want."

On the emphasis the Sun Devils have put on stopping the run in 2013:

Paul Randolph: "Naturally we've impressed that upon them and (the linebackers) are a major part of stopping the run and we have to get down to the line of scrimmage. We talk about destroying the line of scrimmage and all of our guys, I think they understand that. They understand that they are a part of the run enforcing unit and we can't do that if we're 3-4 yards deep. So I think the biggest thing that they've done and we'll continue to improve upon is understanding that we are a part of that run defense. We must get down and we must have air-tight fits with the defensive line and our anchor points."

On the development of Chris Young and his transition from SPUR to WILL this offseason:

Paul Randolph: "Last year Chris got here right before camp started and was a little out of shape. He reported this summer probably 15 pounds heavier, in better shape and ready to go and it's shown. He's had a whale of a fall camp improving upon his inside the box linebacker skills. We know he can come off the edge but he's really improved his inside skills. He's an aggressive, forceful, physical linebacker which is what we're looking for when we look at linebackers."

On junior college transfer Antonio Longino, who has settled in at the SPUR position:

Paul Randolph: "He's been at WILL and SPUR all camp long and we're just trying to find what's his best fit, what can he do, and I think he's found a home at SPUR. He's an edge guy. An edge runner is what I call them. He does a really good job at that and I think he's settling in to that position."

On the emergence of Carl Bradford at the Devil backer position:

Paul Randolph: "You know what, he's improving extremely well and getting better fundamentally. Last year was his first year in (the Devil backer position) and it's a difficult position because you've got to master both the linebacker and defensive line skills. I think last year he was just on the verge of understanding what those fundamental techniques are and I think right now he has a much, much better understanding of what techniques he needs when he's playing the defensive end part of that position versus when he's playing the linebacker part of that position and he think he's progressing extremely well towards that end.

Athletically, he's a smart football player and now he's embracing the finer details of the Devil backer position. I think with his maturity he's learning that and he's growing into that area which is going to help him become the player he wants to be the player we need him to be."

On senior Junior Onyeali as he battles for the back-up position at Devil backer:

Paul Randolph: "Junior is sort of working on the same thing as Carl. He's been a defensive end, so he understands that part of it and now he's trying to master the linebacker part of that position and he's really working hard at mastering those techniques and skills. Right now, he's working his tail off just trying to solidify that spot. He's been in a battle all camp long with Chans Cox, and even Kipeli Koniseti has been battling for that spot also. So he's been battling but he's also been improving throughout the summer and he just needs to get better about mastering those fundamentals that he needs."

On freshman Chans Cox, who after experimenting at other linebacker positions throughout the offseason - and even briefly at tight end - has settled in at the Devil backer position:

Paul Randolph: "Chans is an athletic young man. He's a pup but he's coming along well. He's working, pressing the issue, and he's getting better. Chans has never played the defensive line part of it before, so those are the things he's trying to master right now. Couple that with the fact that he was an edge linebacker in his high school career, so we know he can come off the edge and do those types of things. It's just a matter of him mastering the defensive end part of the position. But he's had a good summer and he's working hard every day and really improving in that area.

"He has some talent; it just takes some getting used to. It's a new position for him. It's a hybrid, which means you must master two sets of skills, so it may take a little bit longer to do it but I've been very pleased with Chans' growth, with Carl's growth, and now we need them to keep growing, not only through camp, but through the season so that they're better at the position when we end this thing than we were at the beginning."

On Granville Taylor:

Paul Randolph: "Granville started off fall camp like gangbusters. I think he's a little banged up right now but I think he's still pressing through. And Granville is doing a good job for us. He's instant depth for us. It's a guarantee you can place him in at SAM or WILL. He's extremely intelligent so he can play either position, so with him and Salamo, both can start and play the SAM or WILL position.

"And then you have Carlos Mendoza at the SPUR position. And then Anthony Jones at the SPUR or WILL position. Chris, we know what he can do and Steffon is our SAM. So that's where we are. And then we Viliami Latu, who's just working his tail off and is 'steady Eddie' everyday and he's just staying right there, getting better each time out. He just keeps working and working and he might have an opportunity to get in the lineup and play some.

"And then Alani (Latu) is coming along well too. Both of them are because they're football players. They're mean. They're tough guys and they love playing the game. Anybody that's mean and tough and loves playing the game has got a chance to play."

On newcomer Eriquel Florence, who is currently 3rd on the depth chart at the SAM position:

Paul Randolph: "My expectation for him is to get in shape. It's hard to come into our program because of the tempo in which we work and play. So he's got to get in shape. Once he gets in shape, or as he's getting in shape, he must also learn the defense and how we operate within our defense. So for us, we're just trying to bring him along at a pace that's not uncomfortable but is pressing the issue a little bit, trying to get him ready to play here as quick as we can. I think no doubt he wants to play, so he's working extremely hard trying to learn the system and get in shape."

On redshirt freshman Matt Rowe:

Paul Randolph: "Matt improved in some areas during the offseason. He redshirted a year ago and he's improving and he's coming along at his pace, but he's working. The thing he's doing right now is working with a good attitude and good effort and that's what we want from. him And then just continuing to improve on all of his fundamental areas."

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