On most teams across the country, Chaz Sutton probably would be a defensive standout. For South Carolina, he has played his role about as well as possible. The redshirt junior from Savannah, Ga., has appeared in all 25 games the past two years and has been one of the biggest contributors along the defensive line.
He is second on the team in sacks with five, trailing unanimous All-American Jadeveon Clowney’s school-record 13. He has added 23 tackles, seven tackles for loss and two forced fumbles to his resume. He’s done all that as a reserve coming off the bench in all but one game, the start he earned against Wofford when Clowney was out with an injured foot.
“Chaz has had a good season,” defensive line coach Brad Lawing said. “He has a lot of production inside with our ‘Rabbit’ stuff, kind of like I did with (former USC defensive end) Melvin (Ingram). He and Aldrick (Fordham) both did, where we could put him in one-on-one situations with guys that maybe aren’t as good of athletes.
“He’s also done a good job at defensive end when he’s in there. I have a lot of confidence in him and a lot of confidence in him going into next spring. He’s made improvement”
Sutton has performed without much fanfare. He has made two career starts and he seldom speaks to the media. But his play on the field speaks volumes. That’s the way he likes it.
“I’m not that vocal,” Sutton said. “I just want to go out and play and lead by example. That is the best way. You can always have a guy that always talks and never does anything on the field. I’ve never been that type of guy. I just want to go out and play. I’m a team-first guy. I always have been since little league, middle school, high school. However the coach wants me to fit in is how I will do it.”
Sutton has seen most of his action in Lawing’s “Rabbit” package, a scheme that puts four defensive ends on the field in obvious passing situations. He also has seen time at defensive end, spelling Clowney and Devin Taylor.
He was pleased with the results.
“I think I had a solid year but I think I could have done some things better,” Sutton said. “There were a lot of missed opportunities. I had a lot of missed sacks and a lot of missed tackles for loss. Hopefully, next year I can come back and make those plays instead of missing them.”
Gamecock fans can rest assured there will be a next year. Sutton did submit his paperwork to the NFL Advisory Committee but only to gauge himself against the 2014 class. He also wanted feedback on what he needed to improve on going into his senior season, when he is the favorite to replace the graduating Taylor.
He has considered himself a “third down” specialist this year and wants to improve on his play on the other downs as well.
“I need to work on point of attack and get my motor going better on first and second down,’ he said. “On third down, you’re out there ready to go. I think the scouts want to see how I handle those downs a little bit better. They also want to see me stand up a little more.”
Before any of that happens, Sutton wants to put one final stamp on the 2012 season when South Carolina faces Michigan in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 1. He understands the Gamecocks need to control versatile quarterback Denard Robinson and the Wolverines high-powered offense. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder is open to the challenge.
“I see it as another game and another opportunity to go out and get better,” Sutton said. “If we can contain him in the pocket or not let him get around the edge, we should be able to hold them down.”