Arizona State does sits atop the Pac-12 South standings, but on the defensive side of the ball, the team ranks seventh in the conference in points allowed. The Sun Devils do allow less yards than any other team in the Pac-12. Therefore, there are plenty of positives and negatives to take away from the ASU defense over the first seven games.
Paul Randolph spends countless hours working with the unit, so we asked him to evaluate their performances.
HoS: Over the first seven games, what are the strengths and weakness of the defense?
Paul Randolph: "Well I think our strength no doubt is our guys. I think our guys, the knowledge of the system. In the last two games, the maturity and playing together as a unit. So what I see is the guys are coming together and playing better. We have had two better outings versus the runs, so we improved in that area. Pass wise, coach [Chris Ball, coach [Todd] Graham and coach [Joe] Lorig they have done a phenomenal job on the back end. We're still progressing there. And I think our impact big plays, we call them explosives, they are picking up now which I knew they would. Once we got into this stretch of the schedule I knew we would have more opportunities to make more plays and things of that nature. But I think our guys are disciplined, we are still eliminating penalties right now. The last two games we eliminated more of our errors. I think it's just the redshirt freshmen, the first time play-in players. I think they are now finally getting more comfortable in the system. And we are eliminating more and more of our errors and starting play together more."
HoS: What do you attribute the improved run defense to?
PR: "I just think we have been hammering it for a year now. It feels like a year since spring and fall camp. And I just think the guys are continuing in their fundamental technique, which is the most important thing to defending the run. Each position has to match the fundamentals for the run. And I think our guys' focus, purpose and intent has been on being better at that part of our game. And I just think the results of it are just showing. We are working harder at it and putting more into it physically and mentally."
HoS: Do you think the criticism of Will Sutton has been fair?
PR: "Oh I think Will [Sutton] is right on target. As we have gotten into this stretch of the schedule, I think he is in the opponents' backfield more and more each game. And I think that trend will continue the rest of the season."
HoS: Can you talk about Osahon Irabor and how important he is to the defense?
PR: "Osahon. Osahon. Now let me tell you, he is a big component of our defense early in the season. Bringing him off the edge, making plays in the backfield and things of that nature. But now as we go into this stretch of the spread offense, the more wide open offenses, there is no doubt the cornerbacks Osahon, Robert [Nelson] and Lloyd Carrington and those guys are going to be tested more. And I think Osahon has had a tremendous year so far. And I don't see that falling off any. I am really excited about his prospects for the rest of the season."
HoS: What are the keys to stopping the Washington State offense?
PR: "Truthfully, being disciplined, tackling in space is going to be big and then not allowing run routes on air."