Defensive Under-Tackle/Nose Guard
Arizona State University Sun Devils
Centennial High School
Since the Pac-12 Conference began awarding Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1983, the Sun Devils have seen their athletes win that prestigious recognition six times, including the late Pat Tillman in 1997. The league renamed the award in Tillman's honor in 2004 and perhaps it is fitting that Sutton would become just the second player in league history to capture that award twice in a career.
Sutton joins Washington's Steve Emtman (1990-91) as the multiple-award winner. The Sun Devil displays lots of the characteristics that made Tillman that unquestioned team leader — great work ethic, solid leadership ability in the locker room, a calming presence for the younger players during pressure situations and most of all, a willingness to do whatever his authorities ask — without question.
When the then 300-pound freshman arrived on campus in 2009, he dropped some weight to play the weak-side defensive tackle position at 290 pounds. After he returned to the team in 2011 from being academically ineligible to play in 2010, he shifted to strong-side tackle, eventually dropping his weight to 267 pounds by his junior season to improve his overall quickness.
At warp speed, Sutton would have a sensational season in 2012, as his 13 sacks ranked third overall and led all the down linemen in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision ranks. He would go on to become just the 18th consensus All-American in school history and many thought it would be his final campaign, as the National Football League appeared to be on the horizon.
Sutton surprised most, especially ASU's new coaching staff, when he elected to return to school for the 2013 campaign. He again switched position and was asked to perform in the new system's "Tiger" role. The "Tiger" is actually an under-tackle, whose responsibilities included lining up outside the offensive guard to the split end side. The entire defensive line aligns under (or inside) the tight end to the split end side. The under tackles possess strength and exceptional quickness off the ball, but they aren't usually regarded as powerful players, something that Sutton truly is.
In order to function in his new assignment, Sutton was asked to bulk up, arriving for 2013 fall camp at 309 pounds, more than 40 pounds heavier than during his junior season. With the daunting task of handling multiple blockers, he sacrificed personal success and statistics for that of the team.
The Sun Devils had lost a bit of steam at the end of the 2012 schedule, losing four of their final six contests to finish 8-5 that year. With Sutton now occupying lots of blockers inside, Arizona State finished with a 10-4 record in 2013, winning their final seven regular-season games before stumbling in postseason action.
Sutton was regarded as one of the premier defensive linemen in the state of California as a senior at Centennial High School. The Corona prospect played for one of the nation's elite prep programs and was a very active, athletic and powerful lineman. As a sophomore, he managed to record just 11 tackles as a reserve, but he would end up starring during his final two seasons.
In 2007, the junior registered 48 tackles, coming up with 2.5 quarterback sacks and one fumble recovery. He posted five or more tackles on six occasions and tallied a season-high six total stops three times. As a senior, he delivered 101 tackles, leading the Huskies with 11.5 quarterback sacks. He blocked four punts and recovered one fumble. He also totaled six or more tackles in 11 games on the year.
Based on his senior campaign, Sutton was ranked as the 33rd-best defensive tackle in the country by Scout.com. He concluded his prep career by playing in the 2009 Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Sutton became the fifth player from his high school to ever play for the Arizona State Sun Devils when he rejected scholarship offers from Arizona, Boise State, Fresno State, Nebraska, Nevada-Las Vegas and Washington to sign with ASU on December 14th, 2008.
Sutton appeared in 12 games as a true freshman in 2009, mostly backing up Saia Falahola at weak-side defensive tackle, but he did hold the rare distinction of being a true freshman making his debut as a starter, vs. Idaho State. He would earn another starting assignment later in the year (vs. California), as he finished with 17 tackles, one sack and three stops for losses.
Big things were expected from their prized recruit entering fall camp in 2010, but the regents board informed the coaches they would be without the sophomore's services, as he was ruled academically ineligible. He returned in 2011, starting 12 contests at strong-side tackle. He posted 33 tackles, taking quarterbacks down 2.5 times while also recording 5.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
The All-American, Morris Trophy winner and Pat Tillman Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year choice led the league and tied for second in the nation with 23.5 stops for loss in 2012. He also paced the conference while ranking third in the FBS with 13 sacks, along with coming up with a career-high 63 tackles and three forced fumbles.
Shifting to the "Tiger" position as a senior, he again captured Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and Morris Trophy recognition in 2013. Despite the constant double coverage, he was in on 48 tackles, as Sutton posted four sacks, 13.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage and his first career interception.
Sutton started 40-of-51 games during his career at Arizona State — two at weak-side tackle; 24 at strong-side tackle and 14 at the "Tiger" tackle position, as he posted 161 tackles (95 solos) that included 20.5 sacks for minus-150 yards, 45.5 stops for losses of 212 yards, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, an interception and eight pass deflections.