Q&A with Paul Randolph

Devils Digest caught up with Arizona State's defensive coordinator to get his thoughts on his group performance midway through the season and the upcoming matchup versus Washington State.

DevilsDigest: Halfway through the season, what's your evaluation of the defense?

Randolph: "I'm pleased with where we are. We went in to fall camp with specific goals on some things that we needed to work and improve upon and I've felt like we've done that as a whole. We still have a few things that we are still working on to try and fine tune. Naturally, we are always striving for perfection though we know we are going to come up short we are always striving for it. But I think we have finally come together as a unit, seeing guys playing together and playing harder.

"We are eliminating mistakes more and more each week and that's the biggest thing, guys just getting better fundamentally and us growing together as one unit."

DevilsDigest: You mentioned that you guys had been working on improving a couple of key things on defense. Before the last two games, the run defense hadn't been performing all too well, what was the cause of that?

Randolph: "We went into fall camp wanting to be a better run defense – we knew we had to be starting out our schedule with teams that run the ball well. It was just guys learning their fits and we had quite a few new guys, redshirt freshmen playing and things of that nature. So it's just coming together as a unit, understanding my responsibilities as a unit and fitting. I think we have gotten better here now at about week 6 and 7. We are finally where we need to be on stopping the run but it's always going to be a work in progress."

DevilsDigest: We saw it all come together against Washington in ASU's last game. Was that the best game this defense has played all year?

Randolph: "I think so, in an entire game. We've had spurts and glimpses of what we could be in every single game but I think finally for a whole game I think we came together. The last two games we finally started gelling and coming together and playing Sun Devil type defense. And of course we have got to continue along that trend for the rest of the way out."

DevilsDigest: Pass rush numbers aren't probably where you want them to be at this point, do you think that's just a case of going against the types of offensive lines that you've faced?

Randolph: "I think it's a combination of who you play but also the offensive schemes of the teams that you're playing against. Naturally, we want to be more productive and guys understand that. They've work their tails off to get better each and every week and I think that it's just starting to come together. Coming off of the bye week we have fundamentally gotten better in the pass rush technique going into the second half here."

DevilsDigest: There's been somewhat of a revolving door at the linebacker position outside of Chris Young. Is that a unit in which you will be constantly rotating guys throughout the game or do you want a set lineup moving forward?

Randolph: "Well for us, linebackers it just depends. We want to get the best from each and every one of our linebackers; some cover better, some play the run better and different things like that. So we want to use all of our linebackers and putting them in the best position to be successful. Each week it may be a little different of a team that we are facing so it may fit Chris Young to be inside or outside, or Anthony Jones inside or outside type of deal. I like the fact that they are interchangeable. We are creating depth that way."

DevilsDigest: Can you talk about the emergence of both Chris Young and Davon Coleman and the type of playmaking skills that both of them bring to the table?

Randolph: "Chris showed up here last year and played with his hair on fire and then settled down a little bit and finished the season extremely well. We come into this season and we put him in the box – he got bigger, stronger, faster – and he's been playing extremely well in the box. He's also a really good edge player too and so he'll allow us to do both. Seeing him play you're seeing the results of him being a smart football player.

"Davon Coleman has just been working his tail off and it's showing on gameday. He's making plays, him and Gannon Conway both have done a phenomenal job when they were fighting for the position at field end. Now Davon has moved inside and his game is picking up each and every week. So I'm really excited about his growth and we are going to see if we can keep getting him to improve and finish up."

DevilsDigest: Last question. Your pass defense has been one of the bright spots this season, ranked 2nd in the Pac-12. Does that give you added confidence knowing you have quality leaders and play makers in the back end when you go up against a pass heavy team such as Washington State?

Randolph: "We are confident. Last year our pass defense finished up extremely well and I think we are about right on point this year. So I think it's a good matchup. They throw the ball extremely well and they know what they're doing. They are in another year under their system, which makes them better, and we are another year in our system, which makes us better. We've got to defend the pass, not allow them to run routes on air and of course we want to impact that quarterback. Those are the things that we need to do in order to have a chance to win that game."

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