There will be a South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end that will have a career year in 2013 not named Jadeveon Clowney.
His name is Chaz Sutton.
Sutton, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound redshirt senior from Savannah, GA, became a solid pass-rushing defensive end for head coach Steve Spurrier and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward last season, finishing the season with 25 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and five sacks.
That was second on the team behind Clowney’s 13 — as a backup to former Gamecock Devin Taylor.
Although Sutton wasn’t a starter a year ago, he saw a large amount of playing time in South Carolina’s “rabbit package,” which includes four defensive ends in the defensive trenches in obvious passing downs.
It’s been a bumpy road for Sutton, and the fact that he only has two career starts as a Gamecock is a compliment to the NFL defensive line talent that has gone through the USC program in recent memory.
That won’t be the case anymore, as Sutton moves into a starting role opposite Clowney at defensive end in his senior and last season of eligibility. Sutton, one of only five seniors for USC this season, has carried the mindset and determination to get better as both a vocal leader and player for South Carolina.
This was evidenced by him winning the defense’s Outstanding Weight Room award during spring camp, and that’s why his play this season is going to be essential for the success of South Carolina’s program in 2013.
It is imperative that Sutton steps up and can be counted on in a bigger role, as Clowney is expected to draw double-teams all season.
Sutton will most likely see some success in the “rabbit package” like a season ago, this time lining up inside of Clowney as a defensive tackle. This will create a one-on-one situation with him and a guard. Sutton has the ability to make that a definite mismatch for the Gamecocks going into their SEC schedule.
Sutton is a high-energy, great motor player that flies to the ball, but it was evident last season that he needs to work on his technique this season, especially when he had an array of missed tackles because of his high pad level, overrunning the play and having a lazy technique that cost the Gamecocks.
If Sutton can improve his pad-level and become a solid pass rusher by taking the pressure off of Clowney from the other end slot, Carolina could possibly have a shot to contend for the East title and a trip to Atlanta.
For Sutton, it could also mean raising his stock in the 2014 NFL Draft.
It’s hard to get out of the shadow of a freak like Jadeveon Clowney at South Carolina … unless you’re as gifted as Chaz Sutton is.