Damarious Randall readies for ASU finale, hopes for more

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Randall celebrates during the final minute of the victory over Notre Dame (AP Photo/Matt York) By Matt York Randall celebrates during the final minute of the victory over Notre Dame (AP Photo/Matt York) By Matt York

TEMPE, Ariz. -- If this was Damarious Randall's last season as a Sun Devil, he made it count.

The redshirt senior safety was a playmaking defensive force for Arizona State in 2014. During the regular season, Randall led ASU with 101 tackles and three interceptions, one of which he took to the house for a touchdown against Notre Dame. Only three players in the nation posted more solo tackles per game than Randall's 7.1.

Add in 9.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and a team-high 11 passes defensed, and you have the recipe for an all-conference caliber season. The rest of the Pac-12 agreed, as Randall was named to the All-Pac-12 first team earlier this month.

"It's great recognition with the help of my teammates and a lot of over-the-summer work," Randall said of the honor. "The hard work paid off."

Being just one of two returning starters on ASU's defense coming into 2014, the Sun Devils were counting heavily on Randall to help steady the unit as the younger players developed. That's exactly what transpired, although it did happen much sooner than anyone expected.

After a sluggish first half of the season, the Sun Devil defense returned to being one of the nation's most disruptive and aggressive groups down the stretch, and Randall's performance was a major reason for that turnaround.

Through the first six games, ASU was on a pace to set a program record for fewest turnovers generated in a season. Now, ASU sits 25th in the FBS in turnovers gained, as well as sixth in tackles for loss and seventh in sacks.

"This has been one of the most explosive defenses I've played with in a long, long time," Randall said. "ASU has a lot of things in store for the future. This defense will be one of the top defenses in the country in the coming years."

The question now is whether Randall will be part of it for one more game or one more year.

Randall is looking into the possibility of receiving another year of eligibility from the NCAA via a petition. This stems from him playing baseball prior to his arrival 

"We are definitely pursuing it," Randall told me on Saturday. "I think we will know a lot more about it in a week, week and a half, a little before the bowl game. That is something that is up in the air right now."

Randall added that he feels very good about the chances of being approved.

"Me and Coach Graham were talking about it, and he said that we should have a great, great chance, close to a 100 percent chance of being approved with the information I will provide to them."

However, a team source that I spoke to did not express optimism regarding the chances of a successful petition. To further hint to his departure, earlier this month Randall accepted an invite to play in the Senior Bowl.

Always in motion, the future is, but here in the present, Randall and his teammates are preparing for Dec. 27th's Sun Bowl battle against Duke.

The 9-3 Blue Devils will bring a spread attack to El Paso. Led by senior quarterback Anthony Boone, Duke is averaging 398 yards and 32 points per game.

Boone will have a few dangerous weapons at his disposal that will test Randall and the Sun Devils, including first-team All-ACC wide receiver Jamison Crowder. This season, the 5-foot-9 Crowder has caught 78 passes for 942 yards and eight touchdowns, and has 262 catches over his last three seasons.

Shutting down Duke to get ASU's 10th win of the year will not be an easy task.

"They run an offense that is actually similar to our offense," said Randall. "They have a lot of 3-backs. They just do a lot of different structures with their motions. They try to get you to off your keys, and that's when they try to go over the top."

If it does turn out to be Randall's final time in maroon and gold, he'll leave the program having played a significant role in establishing ASU's promising future.

If not, ASU fans can expect some more big plays and highlight reel moments next year.