Anyone who witnessed the end of Arizona State's 2011 season can be forgiven for being a little skittish about the defense heading into this season. The group lost several key players and was learning an entirely new scheme and mentality.
However, the early returns have been excellent. After three weeks, the Sun Devil defense have some loft national rankings: sixth in passing efficiency defense, seventh in sacks, 14th in tackles-for-loss and 24th and 25th in total and scoring defense respectively.
A primary reason for this has been the inspired play of junior defensive tackle Will Sutton. After years of being labeled with the "potential" tag, Sutton has been turning that into production. Through three games he has 22 tackles, five for loss, and a team-high three sacks.
House of Sparky's Ben Haber caught up with Sutton after Tuesday's practice to get this thoughts on the early success and this week's battle against Utah.
House of Sparky: Despite the end result, the defense seemed to have an excellent showing against Missouri. How do you evaluate the performance of the unit last Saturday?
Will Sutton: We played with heart. We played tough and didn't back down. I say we had about 91 snaps that game, so it was a tough game but we never backed down. The later the game went, the stronger we got.
HoS: Against the Tigers, the team ran a lot of four-man fronts, after doing a lot of three-man looks in the first two weeks. Do you have a personal preference between the two?
WS: It doesn't matter to me, we're all going to make plays no matter what. I like that we do multiple fronts as it keeps an offense on their heels.
HoS: What's it been like operating with the new attacking mentality of the defense over the first three games as opposed to the old scheme?
WS: They're completely different. The four-front was more about getting the D-line off the ball. This one is more about moving. We're still getting off the ball but we have a lot more linebacker blitzes.
HoS: Now that you have a few games under him, what has it been like working with Coach Randolph?
WS: It's tough. Even after 91 snaps, he acts like it's a new week and we have to go out there and practice even harder.
HoS: What have been the keys to your hot start this season?
WS: Just working hard every day, working hard at practice. Practicing how I'm going to play in a game.
HoS: During his press conference this week, Coach Graham said, "Will Sutton is as good of a defensive player that I have ever been around and is not even close to as good as he can be." So, we got to ask, how good can you be?
WS: I don't know. I feel like I'm pretty good right now, but I gotta keep working and get better every day.
WS: It's fun. They're funny guys. We're all out there, making plays. I just love playing next to them.
HoS: Once again, you'll be facing a backup quarterback. Has this run of facing a team's No. 2 changed the defensive approach at all?
WS: No, not really. Everybody is on scholarship. We got to go out there like he's the starting quarterback. We played against him (Jon Hays) last year and he had a pretty good game even though we dominated. We just have to go out there and play Sun Devil football.
HoS: What is your scouting report on the Utah offense?
WS: The O-line is big. They're always going to be big. The receivers are good, the running back is good. Pretty much the same guys as last year.
HoS: What are going to be the defensive keys to the game for beating the Utes on Saturday?
WS: Stop the run. They're under center, running the rock. They're going to run the ball and they have big offensive linemen. We just gotta stop the run.
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