Will Sutton had one of the most dominant years in recent history in college football as a junior. He was able to have a massive impact from the defensive tackle position in Arizona State’s defensive scheme each and every game he played. Going into his senior year, he put on a ton of weight to make him more attractive to the NFL and ended up hurting his production. Still effective, he was not the same player. Now, he is at a great weight for him and has become somewhat of a forgotten man. Sutton is using all of it to motivate him as he gets ready to go into the NFL.
Will and I discuss just how much he prepares for each and every game. He is a relentless film rat who knows the opponent as well as they know themselves. We do discuss the weight gain and who told him to put on the weight as well as where he is now and why he is in the best shape of his life. Will also discussed several of his teammates, former teammate Vontaze Burfict, the food that he used to gain the weight, and his dad’s reaction to seeing him make plays.
Peter Smith: How do you describe the way you operate?
Will Sutton: You can’t just turn it on game day. You gotta prepare, so you gotta get in the film room. And to play every day at a high level, you gotta tell your mind that you can do it and it starts with the film room.
PS: Do you describe what you do as being a penetrator, shooting gaps, making guys react to what you’re doing and react off of that?
WS: Yea, well like I said earlier, it starts with the film; watching film and being able to understand the way they’re gonna block, what type of formations they favor, what plays they run out of the formations and when it comes to the game time, I’m preparing so much and I’m going over it in practice so much, when the game comes, you know what’s gonna come.
PS: So for example, if you’re facing a left guard and his first movement in pass pro is to try to take a step out, are you immediately looking to shoot inside of him?
WS: Oh yea. If a left guard, when it comes to passing situations, he’s a guy who jumps out real quick and try to get into you real fast, and I notice that on film, when the game comes, I’mma take the inside move on him.
PS: Because of the way you play, how difficult is it to deal with Stanford and those tight splits they use?
WS: You know, it’s not as tough. It’s tough because they’re physical and they come at you every play, but I’m not just a finesse player. I’m someone who welcomes the challenge of getting down and dirty with the double teams and playing a team that likes to run the ball.
PS: Since you have always been an undersized guy, do you feel like that has given you an advantage as far as forcing you to be good in terms of hand use, leverage, and technique in general?
WS: Oh yea. That’s the biggest because if you’re using technique and fundamentals the right way, and the person you’re going against doesn’t use their proper technique and fundamentals, it’s gonna show. You’re going to win those one on one battles.
PS: Do you almost have a smile when you take on one of these big gap guards who think they can come in and push you around, knowing you can get under them as well as get around them?
WS: Oh yea and it also means that you can’t take any plays off, because he’s the type of guy who is a physical guy and the offense trusts him to do his job one on one, so when you get those type of guys, you know you gotta bring it every play.
PS: Who was the best guy you went up against in your career?
WS: I can’t just name one. I’ve played against a couple of guys, especially this past season, I can name three. Xavier Su’a-Filo from UCLA, of course David Yankey from Stanford and Zack Martin from Notre Dame.
PS: All of those guys are pretty good with technique but also quicker guys. Su’a-Filo is built like a sumo wrestler, but he can move. So is that the thing that gives you most trouble?
WS: Yea, he can. They’re athletic enough to keep up, so you gotta do things differently. You can’t always revert to what you’re best at. You gotta know different techniques and you gotta be able to do different things. You gotta be versatile.
PS: You guys move around a lot, fly around to the football in a way that can almost look like chaos to some people. How much of that is by design?
WS: That’s the defense we run. Coach (Todd) Graham designs the defense to fit us. He’s not going to go out there be like, this is the scheme we’re gonna run. He’s gonna run it off of the guys we have. The strength of our defense is we’re fast. And so to get us moving, slanting and blitzing off of the edge, doing everything like that, that’s our strength.
PS: Who do you think is the second best player on your defense if we’re agreeing you were the best one? I have a guy in mind and I’m curious if you agree with it.
WS: I’d say there’s a tie between two guys between Chris Young and Carl Bradford, because both of those guys are key to our front seven.
PS: I broke down those two guys, but the other guy I really like is Alden Darby.
WS: Yea and the thing is, he’s playing out of position. He’s a corner.
PS: When I put the tape, that guy’s a strong safety, he’s really good at it.
WS: Oh yea.
PS: His reading keys and knowing when to go are right now.
WS: He understands the game well too. He’s one of those guys who is in the film room, who remembers everything about the opponent. Our defense is not just guys who go out there and play. We got a lot of smart guys. We got guys who study film and really know the game of football and then can put themselves in great situations.
PS: But since you mentioned it, why do you think Carl Bradford is such a good asset to that team?
WS: He does things that you don’t see on the normal. I’ve seen him chase down plays from 20 yards and cause fumbles. He’s just an unbelievable athlete.
PS: What about Chris Young?
WS: He’s the same thing. He’s got a constant motor, he knows the game of football and he’s a for sure tackler. He was averaging about 13 tackles per game.
PS: What do you think that team is losing in Alden Darby?
WS: Somebody who is that vocal leader. Somebody who is high energy, play in and play out.
PS: So when it came to crunch time and it was a 3rd and gotta get off the field type situation, was he that guy that guys rallied around?
WS: You know, it was more based on the position type thing. Every position group had a guy. We didn’t really have one guy that guy that talked to the whole defense.
If there was, I would have to say I was that player, because when it came down to speaking up, a lot of the guys respected me because of how I play, so you could tell when I speak, it’s something that means a lot. They’re all bright-eyed and staring at me, you know, really listening to what I had to say, but we had so many leaders on that team. I lead the DLine, Carl was right there with me. CY, Chris Young leads the linebackers and Darby leads that secondary.
PS: Do you feel like you’re a better player after this year with the extra weight?
WS: Yea, of course. I’ll be more successful in a 4-3 style defense, but I’ve also shown that I can be versatile. I can play at a heavier weight. I can play that 3-4 defense. I can stuff the run. I showed I can do a lot.
PS: Do you think anybody is gonna grab you to play something else before a team picks you to be a 3-technique?
PS: So what was the weight thing? Why did you put on the extra weight?
WS: Yea. My whole life I’ve been hearing he’s too small. He’s too small. I produce but coming to the decision come back or leaving last year, for the grade, they said they judge it off of the film. I felt I played first round ability, but they were saying I was a fifth round guy.
PS: So the NFL Draft Advisory board came back with a fifth round grade, so you decided you had to get better?
PS: So now you weigh 295lbs. Do you feel like this is the best weight/size you’ve been at in your whole life?
WS: Oh yea.
PS: Since the senior year wasn’t as productive as you hoped it would be and you are now at a better weight, do you feel like people are sleeping on you?
WS: Yea, pretty much, but I set the bar so high in my junior year that it was going to be hard to match or be better, you know what I mean?
PS: Absolutely. To put up the stats you did and having missed a game.
WS: I almost missed two games. I played only two snaps against Oregon.
PS: So besides your weight and getting it to where you wanted it to be, what have you been working on this offseason to prepare for your first minicamp.
WS: My strength; getting in the weight room, really getting that punch. You really want to be able to shock the OLineman. 3-techs in the league now have to be able to defeat the double team. You gotta be powerful. You gotta have some strength in your legs and in your arms.