Defensive tackle and All-American Will Sutton announced on Tuesday he will return to Arizona State for the 2013 season, a decision that should make the Sun Devil defense one of the most fearsome in the West.
As a junior, Sutton led the nation’s second most prolific sacking defense with 13. Only Pac-12 counterpart Stanford averaged more sacks per game than the Sun Devils, and the onslaught is unlikely to slow next season. In addition to Sutton, ASU retains linebacker Carl Bradford. The sophomore Bradford made 11.5 sacks on the year. ASU also returns defensive end Junior Onyeali and Davon Coleman. Coleman could be Sutton’s partner at the other tackle spot, Tyler Lockman writes at FOX Sports Arizona.
Sutton jumps to the front of the draft class for 2014. He likely would have graded behind fellow Pac-12 product Star Lotulelei among the 2013 crop of tackles. Utah’s Lotulelei has been a long-coveted prospect of NFL scouts, and should go in the top five of April’s draft. With another year racking up monster stats, Sutton should follow suit.
He emerged as the standout of the Sun Devils’ 2011 defense, a group that otherwise disappointed. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict plummeted from a highly regarded prospect to undrafted over the course of that year. Don’t expect anything similar from Sutton, a player whose performance reflects the philosophy head coach Todd Graham espoused before the season. The 6-foot-1, (listed) 270-pounder plays every down with noticeable effort, maximizing his deceptive speed and punishing strength.
Sutton flourished in defensive coordinator Paul Randolph’s aggressive scheme. Randolph’s system made Tulsa one of the best turnover-forcing defenses in college football, and it worked similarly in his first year at ASU. In addition to the many sacks registered, the multiple blitz formations Randolph employed forced opposing quarterbacks into 21 interceptions.
Those taking over the starting roles in the secondary for Keelan Johnson and Deveron Carr will benefit from the pressure Sutton and Co. provide up front.
Stanford proved in a conference known for its potent offenses, a tenacious defense can emerge as king. Sutton returning to anchor this talented unit will make the Sun Devils contenders for the conference championship.