ASU had one of the most aggressive and successful defenses in the country in 2012.
The Sun Devils ranked first in the country in tackles for loss per game (9.0) and second in the country in sacks per game (4.0).
The defense was also good against the pass, ranking No. 3 nationally in pass defense and No. 10 in passing efficiency defense.
However, defending the run was a problem as the Sun Devils allowed 182.9 rushing yards per game, which was No. 81 in the nation.
The State Press talked with co-defensive coordinator Paul Randolph about the state of the Sun Devil defense and addressed topics such as Chris Young, the improvement of the run defense and the secondary.
The State Press: Chris Young looks a lot bigger this year. Tell us about his development and his versatility.
Paul Randolph: The thing about Chris, Chris is bigger, faster and stronger, and in better shape than what he was a year ago. And he’s an extremely smart football player so, to us, he’s explosive, physical — we have all those attributes you want in a linebacker. And (he has) the athleticism to play all three (positions). So, for us, he’s gonna allow us to use his talents blitzing, pressuring, whatever you call it. He can line up in base; he’s big enough to do that now in this league. We’re really excited over Chris’s progression over the last year.
SP: Redshirt senior defensive end Gannon Conway has been having a good camp at defensive end and has really stepped up. Tell us a little about him.
PR: I’ll tell you what, Gannon has put on probably 20 pounds since a year ago. He’s just as fast, probably faster than he was a year ago, more athletic and stronger. He may be the second strongest guy in the program. As far as his progression from a year ago, didn’t play much last year, but great attitude, worked his tail off this off-season and spring, and now he’s the starting defensive end. He’s had a hell of a spring, and he’s doing a great job for us right now. We just gotta continue his development as we work toward the start of the season and eventually on through the season.
SP: What newcomer or newcomers have stood out to you so far?
PR: Of course, Marcus Ball before he got hurt. Marcus Hardison is coming along quite well up front. (Antonio) Longino at linebacker. You’d have to say Salamo (Fiso) is a newcomer truthfully, because he didn’t play last year; he redshirted. So, Salamo Fiso is really coming along. Lloyd Carrington didn’t play last year for us; he’s having a really good fall camp also, so right now we’re really pleased with our newcomers.
SP: This year, you’re breaking in two new starters in the secondary replacing safety Keelan Johnson and cornerback Deveron Carr. How are you feeling about breaking in two new starters on the back end?
PR: I tell you what, those guys are the two guys that we’re trying to fill in and fill those spots with the vacation of Johnson and Carr. The guys we have are working their tails off to be able to replace them and to elevate their game to help the defense be a better defense than we were a year ago, but I’m really excited. We say we got two guys, we really have three or four guys that have really stepped up their game this fall and were trying to find a way to get our best 11 on the football field.
SP: You’re early schedule is a tough and physical one with teams like Wisconsin, Stanford and USC. What’s the big message defensively for those games?
PR: Stopping the run, and that’s the truth. We want to be dominant up front, and it starts with stopping the run. Naturally, we got Sacramento State first, and we’ve got to be ready to play them. They run the ball extremely well, and naturally the rest of that schedule is a lot of run. So that’s the one thing we said going into this season we have to improve on and that’s the one thing, if you watched us practice, the thing that’s been our emphasis is stopping the run.
SP: How far along are you in terms of being better at stopping the run?
PR: I think we’ve got about two more weeks until kickoff, so I think we’re progressing right along. Truthfully, I do. I think our guys, they understand the seriousness of it. They know we could’ve been better defensively last year if we could have played the run a lot better. I think they’re focus and purpose is the same as always which is improving our fundamental technique and getting better every single day in our run fits.
SP: So, with two weeks until kickoff, how do you feel about where the defense is right now?
PR: I feel really good. We’re on a steady climb right now, which is what we want. We don’t want to max out right here before we get to game time. Right now I think we’re on a steady incline of getting better in the little things that we preach every day, which in tail is going to allow us better run defense and a better defense as we go.
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