It’s pretty hard to miss Will Sutton.
Arizona State’s All-America defensive tackle weighs more than 300 pounds, has dreadlocks flowing out of his helmet and gets into offensive backfields on a regular basis.
It’s all enough to put some fear into opposing offensive lines. But Rich Rodriguez, who saw Sutton’s ability up close and personal in last year’s Territorial Cup game, better not hear the “S” word from his linemen this week.
No, not that one — scared.
“I always tell our guys if you’re scared, pull the covers over your head and go to bed,” Rodriguez said when asked if Sutton is scary. “I don’t know about scared. What concerns you is that very few people can block No. 90 one on one for a consistently long period of time. He’s strong, he’s active, he has a lot of instincts, and he’s a first-rounder in my opinion.”
Sutton had five tackles, including two for a loss against the Wildcats last season en route to being named a consensus first-team All-American.
This year, Sutton has 9½ tackles-for-loss, three sacks and a game-clinching interception against Utah. His statistics are down a bit from last year’s breakout season because of the attention he’s getting from opposing lines.
The UA, however, knows how dangerous he can be.
“He’s the best player on their defense, hands down,” quarterback B.J. Denker said. “He’s big, strong and athletic. I feel like those big guys up front can take care of him, and they know how special of a player he is. If they do their film study and get prepared, I shouldn’t have anything to worry about.”
The “big guys up front” are coming off a strong game against Oregon in which they helped pave the way for 304 rushing yards. The UA only had two rushing plays against the Ducks that lost yardage.
The starting five of Mickey Baucus, Cayman Bundage, Steven Gurrola, Chris Putton and Fabbians Ebbele played every offensive snap in the 42-16 upset win over Oregon.
“I think fundamentally they’ve gotten better as far as some of the techniques,” Rodriguez said of the offensive line. “It wasn’t a dominating performance, but Steven Gurrola and Cayman Bundage probably had their best games of the year. Mickey fought through a little ankle deal he had earlier in the game. Chris Putton was a little better. ‘Fabes’ was pretty steady.
“We’ve gotten better.”
Combined, Baucus, Bundage, Gurrola, Putton and Ebbele have made 123 career starts. Baucus has made the most with 35.
On Saturday in Tempe, the veteran group will have to be at its best because Sutton isn’t the only one in ASU’s front seven that makes plays.
Defensive end Davon Coleman has 7½ sacks and linebacker Carl Bradford has 6½. Linebacker Chris Young has 11 tackles-for-loss and as a team, the Sun Devils have 77 tackles-for-loss on the season.
Rodriguez said ASU’s front seven is “veteran, very mature and very active.”
“You can tell they are smart football players, and there are several that will be playing on Sundays, starting with (Sutton).”
Denker is aware of ASU’s ability but isn’t worried about getting dirty Saturday.
He has been sacked only 14 times this season, which is second-best in the Pac-12.
Arizona’s front five is also opening up enough holes for the Wildcats to rush for 267.4 yards per game, also second-best in the league.
Denker’s confidence in his personal bodyguards up front is sky-high after their performance against Oregon last week.
“After watching the film, we dominated them,” Denker said. “We only had two negative rushing plays. We had two bad plays. Other than that, five yards a pop every play, six yards a pop. It’s all Ka’Deem (Carey), which is to be expected, but those big guys, they do such a great job. I’m not as successful without their help and I know Ka’Deem will say the exact same thing.”
— Linebacker Jake Fischer and safety Jared Tevis were named first-team All-Academic Pac-12 on Tuesday. It’s the third straight year Fischer, who has a 3.36 cumulative GPA as a marketing major, has been named to the team. Tevis, a two-time honoree, has a 3.22 GPA majoring in finance.
Running back Jared Baker, kicker Jake Smith and nose tackle Tevin Hood were named to the second team. Safety Jamar Allah, long snapper Brian Chacon, receiver Trevor Ermisch, defensive end Reggie Gilbert, receiver Trey Griffey, quarterback Nick Isham, punter Drew Riggleman and safety Yamen Sanders received honorable mention.
— Rodriguez said Tuesday that sophomore safety Wayne Capers Jr., has left the program because of various injuries.
Capers played in 11 of 13 games last season as a true freshman and started the New Mexico Bowl when starter Tra’Mayne Bondurant was out with an injury.
Capers had played in just three games this season.
“He’s had a lot of medical issues, so physically he hasn’t been able to go,” Rodriguez said. “So we don’t ever think he’ll play here again. The biggest thing for him is to get his medical stuff — we think it’s an abdominal, stomach thing— cleared up.”
The coach said Capers, a native of Pittsburgh, could transfer closer to home.