Last season as a redshirt sophomore Sutton Smith’s 14 sacks was tied for the best in the nation with Central Michigan’s Joe Ostman. With Smith entering his four year on campus we take a look at the Husky pass rusher and get to know three important facts about him.
3 Reason to Know Sutton Smith
Lead the Nation in sacks
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) July 25, 2018
Sometimes a player can just hit lightning in a bottle and have a huge statistical year that really doesn’t tell the whole story of the type of player they are. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Smith who has the traits that are the reason for the sacks. The best thing Smith has going for him is his burst and quickness. He is able to get off the line in a hurry putting tackles on their heels and then is able to make lateral cuts to get past tackles and into the backfield. Smith also shows the ability to get around the corner with both sinking his hips to bend and the ankle flexibility to make sharp turns. Smith uses his hands well in a swat, but will need to continue to develop more moves.
Size is a concern for Smith where at 6’1 240lbs he looks more like a weakside linebacker than a pass rushing defensive end. While he’s rushing the quarterback Smith is able to negate his size with explosive quickness and bend, his size does show up in the run game. NIU often has him attacking up field and that aggressiveness can be used against him to push him past the pocket or down the line. In the same breathe Smith uses his quickness and aggressiveness to create penetration to get tackles for loss or at least slow up the runner so his teammates can clean up. Smith can get overwhelmed at times at the line of scrimmage and not be a factor against the run.
What Position is He Going to Play
A big question that I have after watching Smith is what position is he going to play in the NFL. You can strike defensive end in a four man front likely out because at 6’1 240lbs and his play against the run he doesn’t look to hold up there in play in and play out. This means that he’s likely going to need to be moved off the ball into either a strong side linebacker position or maybe an outside linebacker type role in a 3-4 defense.
One player that Smith’s playing style does remind me of its Broncos linebacker Von Miller. Miller came out of Texas A&M as a smaller pass rusher who won based off of speed and quickness around the corner. Miller went to the Broncos and played as a 4-3 strongside linebacker initially before moving to a 3-4 outside linebacker when Denver switched defensive schemes. I’m not saying that Smith is going to be the next Von Miller, but their games are very familiar with the ability to beat tackles off the ball with quickness and then to finish with bend and agility. But Miller is taller and until Smith gets measured we don’t know about his length.