Will Sutton, the Arizona State All-Everything player has been racking up the awards in the postseason, and he is far and away the best player on this year's squad.
Although Sutton missed nearly all of the Oregon game and the entire UCLA game and was at a reportedly 65-70-percent shape against Oregon State, Sutton finished the year with 10.5 sacks. This was good enough to be ranked third-best in the Pac-12 Conference and 16th in the nation—tied with teammate Carl Bradford.
He also led the conference in tackles-for-loss and placed fifth in the FBS with 1.82 per game. He added five pass breakups and three forced fumbles to his resume.
Sutton became the Sun Devils' first consensus All-American since Terrell Suggs in 2002. He was named to the first team of the Associated Press, the American Football Coaches Association and the Sporting News. He is the 14th player in Sun Devil history to reach such heights.
Sutton's litany of awards didn't stop there; he was also recognized as first team All-America by Lindy's, CBSSports.com and Athlon Sports.
He was clearly the best defensive player in the Pac-12 Conference when he was awarded the Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, the Morris Trophy for Most Outstanding Lineman in the conference, as well as CBSSports.com Defensive Player of the Year.
Are all those accolades enough for Sutton to make a splash in the NFL?
Why then, did he only make it to second team for Walter Camp and FoxSports.net, and a mere semifinalist for the Bednarik Trophy?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to examining Sutton's future. We can look at past players at Arizona State that have gone on to lucrative careers in the NFL in Terrell Suggs and Vontaze Burfict.
Suggs joined the NFL draft after his stellar junior year in which he was a consensus All-American and Morris trophy winner like Sutton, but he also had in his arsenal the Ted Hendricks, Bronko Nagurski, Rotary Lombardi and Bill Willis Trophies.
With all this going for Suggs, he was drafted No. 10 overall and went on to win two separate NFL Rookie of the Year awards.
Then there is the case of Vontaze Burfict—an absolute monster on the field, and unfortunately off the field, as well.
Burfict led the Sun Devils in his first two years and was selected to the 2009 Freshman All-American squad. His sophomore year led to a All-America nod from the Sporting News, as well as Pac-10 Defensive MVP. His junior season was just plain ugly. Burfict was labeled a cancer in the locker room who was plagued by inconsistent play and a lack of discipline. He also skipped his senior season and made himself eligible for the draft where he went undrafted.
There is good news for Burfict because all he really needed was discipline and Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was willing to take the chance on Burfict. He is now a starter and is second on the team in tackles including a team-high six for-loss.
Will Sutton has already sent in his paperwork to an NFL advisory committee that helps players determine their value. According to ESPN analyst, Mel Kiper, Jr., there are a number of Defensive Tackles that are coming out in next year's draft and it is the most stacked position of the draft with an amazing five going in the first round alone and three in the Top 10—Sutton ranks eighth on his list.
Kiper had this to say about Sutton:
I love the fact that he plays so hard. He’s got that leverage advantage, and he’s got that power, and he’s got the ability to go out and produce as he did when he was at full strength this year. The concern, obviously, is he doesn’t have great size in terms of being that 320-pound plugger. But at the end of day, right now, he’s the fourth-highest-rated junior defensive tackle behind some real good ones, all of whom are projected as first-round picks.
Sutton can take this either way; if he were to enter the draft, he would most likely go in the second or third round and could get some playing time, depending on where he went. Conversely, he could stay his senior season and be only the second repeat consensus All-American in Arizona State history, dominate the defensive landscape and win the Bednarik Award. This will surely guarantee a first-round pick in 2014, if not a Top 10 pick.
Given everything, I prefer the latter, plus heaven only knows where head coach Todd Graham can take the Sun Devils in his second year and with Sutton still in Maroon and Gold, the possibilities are endless.