Rodriguez: Arizona State's Will Sutton still first-round draft pick

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Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton is not going to match last season's production, even with the Territorial Cup against Arizona on Saturday, the Pac-12 championship game against Stanford on Dec. 7, and a bowl game remaining on the schedule.

Sutton has 9.5 tackles for loss and three sacks this season, well off the 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks he posted in a breakout 2012 campaign to win the Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year Award.

That drop-off in production won't sway Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham from declaring that Sutton (6-foot-1, 305 pounds) "had a better year than he had last year.

"It's not all about somebody's individual statistics," Graham told the Arizona Republic. "What he does and how he's developed as a player, the unselfish attitude he has and the power that he has; he's a great player."

Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez is aware of the impact Sutton can have on a game, as the redshirt senior had two tackles for loss in last season's 41-34 ASU win over Arizona.

"What concerns you is that very few people can block No. 90 one on one for a consistently long period of time," Rodriguez told the Arizona Daily Star. "He's strong, he's active, he has a lot of instincts, and he's a first-rounder in my opinion."

Sutton has impressed Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker, too.

"He's the best player on their defense, hands down," Denker said.

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Sutton has come on strong over the last five games, recording seven tackles for loss and two sacks in that span. But that late-season surge has only added fuel to the notion that Sutton added bad weight in the offseason and subsequently played his way into shape.

Whatever the cause, Sutton is unquestionably playing with more explosiveness, a trait he will need to highlight to disrupt Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey. Carey is coming off arguably the best performance of his outstanding college career, gashing Oregon for 206 yards and four touchdowns on 48 carries.

Even though UA and Stanford rank in the top 14 nationally in tackles for loss allowed, Sutton won't equal his production from last season. It won't matter if he can lift ASU to the Rose Bowl.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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