Redshirt senior defensive tackle Will Sutton hasn’t had the best start of the season so far on the stat sheet.
After the first three games of the season, the All-American has recorded just nine tackles (one shared tackle for loss) and no sacks.
Last year after three games, Sutton had already recorded 19 tackles (five for loss) and three sacks.
So what’s going on?
Many pundits have pointed out Sutton’s weight gain during the offseason has made him slower this season. According to ASUDevils.com, Sutton weighed in at around 290-295 pounds during bowl season last December and now weighs about 310.
Sutton said after Wednesday’s practice that his weight isn’t what’s slowing him down.
“People think it’s my weight, but they don’t understand that teams are gunning for me now, and it’s a lot harder to make plays when you got double teams,” Sutton said. “I’m still in the backfield, it’s just they’re running away, pulling the guard, blocking back, chopping me. It’s a little tougher.”
Sutton said he’s heard people criticize him for starting off the season, but he doesn’t care.
“I’m still getting pressure on the pass, and I’m still doing my job,” he said. “People look at it and go, ‘He’s not making plays so let’s find something to pick something negative on.’ I’m not even listening to it. I’m just going out and working every day.”
After a stellar junior season, Sutton understands that opposing offensive lines will double-team him on nearly every play, and it’s his job not to get frustrated.
His main goal every game is to stop the power run up the middle, which he believes his fellow defensive linemen have done well so far. He wants to do the same against USC on Saturday by neutralizing the Trojan running backs before getting to sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler.
Although Sutton’s production has been lower than expected, he assured he’s near the same level physically as he was last year.
“(I’m) just as fast,” he said. “Probably not faster, but just as fast. Stronger, though. It’s a good thing.”
Graham defends offensive line
Along with the mistakes the Sun Devils made in their 42-28 loss to No. 5 Stanford last Saturday, some critics indicated the offensive line was also at fault.
The offensive line allowed three sacks in the game and also let the Cardinal hurry redshirt junior quarterback Taylor Kelly throughout most of the game. ASU lost 30 yards on negative rushing plays and the Sun Devils rank an uncharacteristic 108th in the nation in rushing offense.
Coach Todd Graham said he is still pleased with the offensive line and gave them a pass because of the teams ASU played against to begin the season.
“I feel good about them,” he said. “There’s not anybody in the country that’s playing a tougher schedule than we are. We’ve played good people. We’re playing run-oriented ‘D.’ All I care about is winning. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in our offensive line. We’re better in every regard than we were last year.”
Graham quickly turned around and reiterated that special teams remain the main concern to fix this week in practice.
“That’s the only area that’s concerning me,” he said. “It has to do with the punt game and we’re very capable. It just has to be fixed. … I’m not worried about the offensive line. I’m not worried about the defense. We got young kids at certain spots.”
- Graham said junior defensive end Marcus Hardison has been the standout player in practice this week and finally saw glimpses of the player that he recruited in Hardison.
- Freshman linebackers Chans Cox, Alani Latu and senior defensive end Junior Onyeali still practiced on Wednesday, a day after Graham said all three could be out for the season with injuries. They wore green no-contact jerseys and were still noticeably limited.
- Sophomore nose tackle Jaxon Hood (leg) returned to practice Wednesday after missing Tuesday’s session. He didn’t wear a green jersey but was very limited throughout practice by spending a lot of time at muscle beach and not even taking part in the team’s dynamic stretches. Hood isn’t expected to play on Saturday against USC.
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