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The New No. 90: ASU football's Tashon Smallwood looks to fill Will Sutton's big shoes

Smallwood was forced into action last season, but returns with added experience in 2015

Football media day 009 Tashon Smallwood
Sophomore defensive lineman Tashon Smallwood gives an interview to reporters during football media day on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, at the Carson Student-Athlete Center.

The No. 90 in maroon and gold carries some weight — almost as much figuratively as it does literally. 

It's the number previously worn by former ASU football player and current Chicago Bear Will Sutton, who won the 2012 and 2013 Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Now it belongs to sophomore defensive lineman Tashon Smallwood, who like Sutton before him played as a true freshman.

At 6-foot-1, 280 pounds, there's nothing small about the Fresno, California native, who was named a Freshman All-American by Scout last season.

Last season, Smallwood finished with 23 total tackles (5.5 for loss) along with two sacks and a forced fumble. While he has established his spot on the depth chart (he was listed as the first-string "Tiger" defensive lineman in the preseason), he has a long way to go to match Sutton's numbers (161 career total tackles, 45.5 tackles for loss and 20.5 career sacks).

"Before coming here, (Will Sutton) was one of the guys that I was told that I was compared to a lot and that I was told to look at," Smallwood said. "A lot of the schemes and a lot of the plays were built in specifically for him, and that's why they recruited me. Because I can do some of those things.

"Honestly it's an honor. The goal is for me to surpass him and continue to get better and work on the things that he did good and try to perfect them in the ways that I can do it."

Smallwood was forced into the starting lineup in 2014 mostly out of necessity for a thin defensive line group that lost every starter except for then-senior Marcus Hardison.

"Playing as a true freshman, which they needed me to do, it was tough starting off but as the games went on, as the practices went on, as the days went on I just started to build that maturity," Smallwood said. 

The 6-foot-1, 280-pound defensive tackle now returns as one of nine defensive starters from last season.

Smallwood said the experience several of the young defensive lineman earned last season will help them in 2015.

"Last year, we had a lot of young guys who had to come in and play," he said. "What has developed from those guys and me myself. Just maturity over the course of the year. Of course, technique has been getting better from everybody. There's still a lot of things that we need to work on, but it's just getting better each and every day."

Smallwood's experience at ASU has reaffirmed his decision to come to the program, which has turned out to be much different than he expected it to be.

"I've been to visits at different schools and you come to the programs and you hear what they preach and coming out of high school it's like, 'Okay, whatever' but coming (to ASU) I felt like they really were about what they were preaching," Smallwood said. "Coming here, it was nothing like I expected. The brotherhood that we have here, everything that coach Graham preaches, that's the idea of this team and that everybody takes on."

Reach the reporter at or follow @fardaya15 on Twitter.

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