Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona
By TYLER LOCKMAN  |  Last updated 10/24/13
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The chatter about Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton's diminished statistical production this season refuses to go away. The most recent round of criticism came last week from a column written by NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt, the same person who first suggested Sutton may have lost some explosiveness after gaining weight in the offseason following a dominant 2012 in which he earned All-America and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. "He seems to have lost his quickness," the column read. "He has to improve over the next six games if he is going to be a first-round pick, starting with the Sun Devils' homecoming game against Washington this weekend." Chances are Sutton didn't even see the remark, but he went out and had his best performance of the season anyway in ASU's 53-24 win, collecting three tackles for loss, a sack and pass breakup. Even if Sutton has heard the recent dialogue about his added weight -- often misunderstood to be more than it actually was -- the senior says it doesn't give him any extra motivation. "No, it's cool, you know," Sutton said Wednesday. "People have their own opinion. Freedom of speech. They can say what they say. It's not going to affect me. They're not the ones out here playing. If they want to strap it up and put the pads on, they can come and live a day in the life and see how it is. But they can't. I don't let it bother me." Sutton has seen regular double teams all season, and ASU's defensive front has gone up against offensive line stalwarts such as Stanford, USC and Notre Dame. Some wondered if the group could match the dominance seen up front in 2012, when the Sun Devils led the nation in tackles for loss and finished second in sacks. That dominance reappeared against Washington, with ASU tallying 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Sutton has maintained all season that the line's ability hasn't lessened but didn't take the bait when given the chance for an I-told-you-so moment during his weekly session with reporters. "No, not 'I told you so,'" Sutton said. "It's just we finally got a chance to just really go out there and do what we do. We've been stopping the run, and when teams have got to pass, we can really pin our ears back and go." Given that, Sutton said the line is really looking forward to ASU's upcoming game with Washington State on Oct. 31. The Cougars' passing offense ranks second in the Pac-12, and quarterback Connor Halliday threw 89 passes last week. Sutton said he has been playing just about every snap this season. That wasn't the plan heading into the year, as ASU thought it would have the depth to spell Sutton more. "Our depth isn't where it was like we thought it was going to be," Sutton admitted. "The good thing is Davon (Coleman) stepped up, him and Jaxon (Hood). We're just starting to get a good rotation with me, (Coleman) and Jaxon." While the Sun Devils' schedule doesn't get any easier the rest of the way -- they still have three road games, including ones at Utah and UCLA, and home games with Oregon State and Arizona -- there are still some opportunities for Sutton to put up big numbers. But while Washington was Sutton's best statistical game yet, he says it wasn't actually his best performance; numbers, he says are a secondary concern. "Numbers-wise, yeah, but I don't really look at my stats," Sutton said. "My main concern is just doing what I can for the team and walk away with a 'W.' That's my main concern. "Stats come later. Stats come with how hard we're working out here (in practice) and in the film room. If I get good stats, I get good stats. If I don't, I don't, just as long as we get those W's." NOTES -- Running back D.J. Foster and receiver Jaelen Strong remained limited in practice Thursday, their third straight day of non-participation. -- ASU does not practice again until Sunday morning, as the coaching staff will use the next few days to recruit off campus.
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