Bill Slane

Sutton takes home the Defensive Player of the Year award for second straight season

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Yesterday the Pac-12 announced their all-conference team and the Sun Devils led all schools with 13 selections for the 1st and 2nd teams. Coach Graham was also named the Pac-12 coach of the year. The last of the accolades of the day for the Sun Devils went to senior defensive lineman Will Sutton. For the second straight year, Sutton was awarded the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year award. Sutton himself will admit that his stats were down this season, so the question raised is whether or not Sutton deserved to retain the honor.

When Sutton found out that he was once again named the defensive player of the year in the conference, he said he expressed both surprise and elation.

“Coach Graham called me last night, and I thought I was in trouble. And when he told me, I sounded like a kid on Christmas, my voice got all high-pitched; I was excited,” Sutton said in a press conference on Monday.

Sutton was also quick to acknowledge that his numbers were not as high in 2013. In comparison to his breakout year in 2012, this past year was quite average. Will ended the regular season with just three sacks (he had 12 in 2012) and 10.5 tackles for loss (he had 23.5 in 2012). Sutton also had just over half as many solo tackles as he had a season ago with 23 (he had 40 in 2012).

“I didn’t think that I would get the defensive player of the year again, because I thought my numbers were down and everything so I thought ‘oh well’. But we were winning so it didn’t matter to me,” Sutton said.

It’s not just that Sutton’s numbers were down; it’s that there were several players in the conference who did have great statistical seasons.  My pre-season pick for the award was Anthony Barr from UCLA, and statistically Barr had a more deserving season. Barr led the conference in tackles for loss with 20 and was tied for 2nd in the conference with 10 sacks. Barr’s season may have been overshadowed late in the year by freshman standout and two-way player Myles Jack.

A pair of linebackers from Stanford could also make a case for the award. Shayne Skov had more tackles for loss and more pure tackles than Sutton. But maybe the most worthy was fellow Cardinal Trent Murphy. Murphy led the conference in sacks with 13 and was only a half tackle out of first place for tackles for loss with 19.5.

Sutton made a case for himself as well in his acknowledgment that he had to deal with tough blocking schemes all season long. Sutton said that when he watched film on opposing offenses this season he felt he would be able to have monster games, but when the games kicked off the offenses would change their whole scheme to help contain him. Sutton believes he’s improved in beating those blocking schemes this season.

Some thought, and I was one of them, that the extra weight Sutton put on hindered his ability to make plays. Sutton would certainly disagree.

“I never thought I put on bad weight from the start, so I don’t even know why that would even be talked about. You know if you watch film, teams are doing everything in their power to slow me down. Look at the Stanford game at the beginning of the season [for example] I got high-lowed 4 or 5 times in that game and no penalty was called,” Sutton said.

At the end of the day however, coach Graham and the Sun Devils are happy to keep the award named for Pat Tillman at ASU.

“We’re very thrilled to keep the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year right here at Arizona State. That’s one of our main goals every year,” Graham said on Monday.

 

 

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