The Best of the Best: Will Sutton

With it now only 10 days until the 2013 college football season begins, I’m happy to be debuting my “Best of the Best” series.  This 10 article series will take a  look at my top 10 draft eligible players in college football.  For my rankings, I factored my Draft stock for each player, as well as their impact on the college gridiron.  While I fully expect all of these players to be top 15 draft selections next year (if they all declare), there could always be fluctuation with a premium placed on positions like Quarterback and Offensive Tackle.  With that said, it’s time to look at my number 10 prospect, Arizona State Defensive Lineman Will Sutton.

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Tale of the Tape

  • 6’1″
  • 271 lbs

Career Numbers

  • 113 total tackles
  • 32 tackles for a loss
  • 16.5 sacks
  • 4 forced fumbles
  • 6 passes deflected

After a less than stellar start to his career Sutton finally burst onto the scene in 2012.  Sutton took his game to a new level, finishing second in the nation in tackles for a loss with 23.5, and third in the nation in the sack category with 13.5. He also posted exceptional tackling numbers, finishing 2012 with 62 total tackles.  So with the boom season is he just a one year wonder, or is there more to his game to maintain longevity in 2013 and beyond?

Anticipating the Snap

  • When watching Sutton, the first thing that immediately jumps out to me is how well he can adjust to the snap timing throughout a game. He’s not the most explosive player off the ball.  However once he reads the snap, he’s able to anticipate and jump it so well that he’s often quicker than the opposing Offensive Lineman blocking him.                                                               Image
  • In this first play, we will look at a simple rush, but because of Sutton’s timing, the blocker isn’t able to disrupt Sutton effectively off the snap.                  Image
  • Another look at this play shows us how quickly Sutton has fired off the snap.  If you look you can see that because of Sutton’s timing, there is a lane created between the Center and the Guard where they haven’t reacted quick enough.                                                                                                          Image
  • In this frame we can see Sutton’s explosive closing speed on display.  He easily shoots through the gap created, and at this point all the Center can do is try and disrupt him from his side, or grab his jersey and take the foul.                                                       Image
  • Sutton finishes the play by stripping the Quarterback as he gets into the backfield.  Cal recovers the ball, but it’s a sizable loss on third and long resulting in getting the ball back to his offense.                                                              Image
  • Here again we see Sutton with great timing of the snap.  Notice how the Center has hardly gotten out of his stance, while Sutton has already fired up and again has both hands ready to attack the blocker.                                       Image
  • Sutton’s timing allows him to contact the blocker before he’s ready to deal with him, because of this Sutton is able to use a quick rip to get to the side of the blocker and blow by him.                                                                      Image
  • At this point Sutton has left the Center looking foolish, but more importantly he’s got a free lane straight to Quarterback.                                             Image
  • Sutton shows great closing speed to get to the Quarterback before he can set and throw the ball.  This results in the QB having to make a hurried throw off his back foot which falls incomplete.

Pass Rush Moves

  • Snap timing may have been the first thing that jumped out when I watched Sutton last year, but his pass rushing technique wasn’t far behind.  Sutton has a full arsenal of pass rushing moves, utilizing not only quick and devastating swim moves, but powerful rips and bull rushes when anchored properly.    Image
  • On this play we will once again see great explosiveness off the snap from Sutton, but it’s his  phenomenal pass rush move that I want to point out.  As the ball is snapped, Sutton shows again that he can consistently fire off the snap and engage his blocker in a very short period of time.                                                                  Image
  • At this point Sutton has already won his battle against the Center by utilizing a explosive swim move to force the blocker out of his way.  Before Quarterback Matt Barkley has finished his drop back Sutton has already created a free lane to the QB.                                                                                            Image
  • Sutton is able to easily get his arm up and around the blocker, making it impossible for him to be impeded in his pass rush.  With the free lane, Sutton is able to continue his explosive pursuit and brings the Quarterback down, forcing a punt.                                                                                                 Image
  • Next we’ll take a look at Sutton’s power in his pass rush game, his Bull Rush.  From initial contact it is easy to see that Sutton is able to generate incredible strength and power to drive his blocker back to the Quarterback when utilizing proper leverage.                                                                   Image
  • The ball has just barely reached the Quarterback off the snap, and it’s already evident how much of a leverage advantage Sutton has on his blocker.  Notice how much further back the Right Guard blocking Sutton is, as opposed to the Left Guard.  Sutton is already at least a yard further up the field.    Image
  • Sutton uses good technique, keeping his arms extended so the blocker can’t get into his body.  This makes it even easier for Sutton to use his leverage advantage to force the blocker into the backfield.                                             Image
  • Sutton not content to just make the Quarterback uncomfortable, is able to disengage easily with the leverage advantage, and finish the play by getting a hit on the QB.                                                                              Image
  • Something that is rare to see in a Defensive Tackles game, is an exceptional speed rush.  But on this play against Missouri, the Arizona State standout displays an extremely effective one.                                                     Image
  • As the play begins, you can see Sutton utilizing good technique, dipping his shoulder inside to give him the angle and leverage necessary to dip around the blocker.                                                                                         Image
  • Due to technique and burst, Sutton is able to slide around the Right Guard and put himself in position to make the play on the Quarterback.    Image
  • Even with the Guard grabbing at Sutton’s jersey, he is able to explode around the blocker and to the Quarterback.  The QB has no choice but to tuck the ball and take a sack.

Athleticism

  • Sutton flashes great athleticism on the field.  He shows the ability to not only leap and knock down passes, but also make plays sideline to sideline.                  Image
  • Late in the game against Missouri Sutton flashes leaping ability, timing his leap well and extending fully to fill the Quarterback’s passing lane and force an incomplete pass.  Sutton shows good skill to knock down passes, with 6 pass deflections in his career.Image
  • More impressive about Sutton’s athleticism though, is his ability to make plays from sideline to sideline, and down the field in pursuit.  On this play I want to point out Sutton’s ability to read and react to the play going away from him, as well as his pursuit ability to get back to the play and help out on the tackle.  Notice Sutton is lined up on the far side of the field.       Image
  • Right from the snap, the play is designed to go away from Sutton’s side of the field as you can see from the Quarterback rolling to the near side of the field.   Image
  • As the ball is thrown Sutton is about 11 yards further down field, and roughly the distance between the hashes to the left of the play.  Note: The difference doesn’t look as significant in this image because I shrunk the dimensions to fit it into the article.  For a better representation of the distance please refer to this image. ( http://i909.photobucket.com/albums/ac300/theant1h3ro/suttonsidelinetosideline3big_zpsbe7d37c3.jpg )                                                          Image
  • As the receiver looks to turn up field, we can no longer see Sutton in the frame.  It certainly looks like he won’t be involved in the play.               Image
  • However just a moment later as the Tight End approaches the original Line of Scrimmage we see Sutton come back into the frame closing in on the ball carrier.                                                                                      Image
  • Sutton finishes this great pursuit play by joining in on the tackle.

Scheme Versatility

  • Sutton displays a good amount of versatility in terms of where you can play him.  While he finds most of his success lining up in between the Guard and Tackle (3 technique), he also flashes ability to make plays lined up across from the Center (0 technique), and further outside at End in a 5 technique position of a 3-4 alignment.

Needs Work

While every single player in my Best of the Best series has traits to their game that in my opinion make them stand out, they all have things they need to improve too.  So let’s look at a couple of areas where I would like to see Sutton improve in 2013.

Finishing Tackles in Space

  • Like most players his size, Sutton can have trouble making the play in open space.  While he excels at beating blockers and getting to the Quarterback, smaller and shiftier Backs and Receivers can give him fits at times.     Image
  • On this play we will see Sutton make the appropriate read, getting to Marqise Lee in the backfield on the reverse.  However, when confronted with the tackle in space opportunity Sutton isn’t able to finish the play.      Image
  • Sutton reads the play perfectly, pursuing the Quarterback back to the pitch point, and then instantly taking his pursuit from the QB to Wide Receiver Marqise Lee.  At this point Sutton is in excellent position to make a critical stop in the game.                                                                                Image
  • Sutton now dives for Lee, extending his arm to make a desperation tackle attempt.                                                                                                Image
  • Lee is easily able to run through the tackle attempt to extend the play.     Image
  • Sutton however doesn’t give up on the play, and will get a chance at redemption as Lee cuts the play back.                                                    Image
  • Sutton’s quick recovery forces Lee to make another cut back towards the rest of the Arizona Sate defense.                                             Image
  • Sutton is once again presented with the opportunity to tackle Lee for a loss, but like the rest of the Arizona State defense, he fails to do so.  In fairness to Sutton, there is a blocker getting a shot on him, and Lee is one of the most elusive players in college football.  Lee is able to turn this busted play into a Houdini act for a 20+ yard gain.

Form Tackling

  • While Sutton is a very physical player, at time his tackling technique leads something to be desired.                                                        Image
  • Sutton makes the correct read and is in position to stop the Quarterback on the keep, however instead of wrapping up and dragging him down he goes with a weak arm tackle.                                                                  Image
  • As a result, the Quarterback is able to run through the attempt, and the result of the play is a touchdown.  In an Arizona State loss that was decided by four points this is a critical mistake.

Leverage Consistency

The other area of his game I would like to see Sutton focus on this year is being more consistent in regards to leverage.  When he gets off the snap and gains good leverage he’s virtually impossible to block.  However when he struggles to gain leverage at the point of attack due to poor technique, his pad level being too high or a lack of burst off the snap he can be moved around easily.  Sutton did add 30 pounds of weight during the off season, so this should help with his ability to anchor and create leverage, however it is an area he will need to improve to reach his potential.

Final Thoughts

Sutton is a phenomenal Defensive Tackle, who shows a balanced ability in both the passing game, and in run support.  He has a very strong set of pass rush moves that he combines with great snap timing and a good degree of power to win match ups on a regular basis.  He usually utilizes good technique, and shows good ability to read and react to plays in the backfield.  He has a nose for the ball, pursuing well sideline to sideline and making hustle plays throughout games.  He also utilizes quick feet to cut through narrow lanes, to make plays.

Like most Defensive Tackles, he struggles at times to make plays in space, and can have lapses in technique and pad level that create leverage issues.  He also doesn’t always have good tackling technique resulting in missed opportunities.  Scheme versatility makes him an intriguing prospect as a 3-4 Defensive End, or pass rushing Under Tackle in a 4-3 alignment.  He missed the entire 2010 season with Academic problems, and at 6’1 will more than likely have doubts due to his size.

Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next player in my Best of the Best series.  Also, please feel free to send me any comments/critique to danguy013@gmail.com or feel free to to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13

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