Randolph Searching For Depth

West Virginia is searching for depth and dependability along the defensive line, and it's doing so with a new coach in a vital slot.

Defensive line coach Paul Randolph, WVU's newest assistant, was hired away from Toledo and is now constructing one of the key areas for WVU this spring.

"Our defense needs to be strongest up the middle," Randolph said. "That includes the nose guard slot, and that is a big area for us. We're working on that and developing depth and the numbers needed right now."

Randolph, who coached the Rockets to the Mid-American championship last season with a win over Marshall, is working primarily with nose guard David Upchurch and ends Tim Love and Jason Davis. All are seniors who are adjusting to their third new defense in as many seasons.

"The good thing is that the entire defense and line play is new to them, so they are all starting over again with chances to earn spots," Randolph said.

It's not so for Randolph, who taught the same defense WVU used last season at Toledo. He says the current defense, an odd-stack, also known as a 3-3 or a 3-5, is not as much of a penetrating defense, but will shuffle players and move more. Last year WVU's goal along the line was to create an upfield push on every play. This year it will focus more on holding blockers, though co-defensive coordinator Todd Graham says WVU "will allow our lineman to pin their ears back and come on some plays."

"This is an attacking defense," Randolph said, "which means aggressively taking on offensive linemen, escaping from them and moving into gaps and things of that nature, probably more than last year.

"Upchurch is the main piece in the middle," Randolph said. "And to develop the numbers we need, we have to make sure (backups) Ben Lynch and Kevin Freeman get a lot of reps. I like those guys, and I think they will see more time this year. Ernest Hunter, who didn't play last year, is behind Upchurch. He's quick, has ability and I think he has a chance to help us."

Randolph, a Gainesville, Fla., native, had a 10 year career in the Canadian Football League after being named as two-time all-conference linebacker at Tennessee-Martin. He graduated in 1990 and started his collegiate coaching career in 1998 at his alma mater coaching linebackers. He moved to Valdosta State in 1999 as defensive line coach, and held that same position at Illinois State in 2000.

In 1997, Randolph started the Paul Randolph Football Camp in Gainesville. It provides a week-long camp experience for underprivileged youngsters through corporate sponsorships.

Randolph also worked with special teams at Toledo, but will not do so at West Virginia. He said his adjustment has been very smooth and the players receptive.

"The coaches have welcomed me and are teaching me the ropes," Randolph said. "They are taking care of me, and the players have welcomed me with open arms. Their willingness to learn and continue to get better has made it easy."

Randolph and his wife Mia have two children, Patrick and Mya.

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