Chaz Sutton is hoping to have a breakout senior season — much like Melvin Ingram did two years ago for South Carolina.
That season, Ingram went from a seldom used backup to an NFL first-round draft pick after a stellar senior year.
Much like Ingram did during his first three seasons, Sutton has shown flashes. Take last year. His sacks and tackles for loss caught everyone’s attention when he was able to find playing time behind senior Devin Taylor and unanimous All-America selection Jadeveon Clowney.
He finished third on the team with five sacks and fifth on the team with seven tackles for loss. He hopes moving into a starting role this season will lead to an increase in his numbers.
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“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.”
Better numbers might come with the increased playing time and lining up opposite Clowney. Sutton made most of his plays last season in the Gamecocks’ “Rabbits” package — when USC played four defensive ends in obvious passing situations to increase pressure.
Adjusting to being an every down player is something Sutton will be working on when South Carolina resumes spring practice Tuesday.
“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.”
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward is expecting big things from Sutton.
“He’s an athletic guy, and he knows how to make plays,” Ward said. “It’s his time to go out and show that he can be an every-down player. We’re expecting big things from him. I think he’s going to have a solid year.”
Sutton is adjusting to a number of things this spring. With the departure of safety D.J. Swearinger and linebacker Shaq Wilson, the Gamecocks lost two of their biggest vocal leaders on the defensive side of the ball.
Sutton has always been a type of player that would rather lead by example.
“I’m not the type of vocal guy like DJ or some of the rest we had,” Sutton said. “I try to lead by example and make plays. There is room for that type of leader on this team.”
Sutton is adjusting to first-year defensive line coach Deke Adams, who has a different type of intensity in practice than long-time assistant Brad Lawing, who departed for Florida
“It has been totally different,” Sutton said. “Everything we did with coach Lawing was at half tempo. Everything with coach Adams is high tempo. It’s getting us better with endurance. It will help playing these offenses that go fast and want to run 90 plays per game. We have to match that tempo to slow them down.”
The Gamecocks lost a lot of talent on defense, including their top four linebackers, Swearinger, Taylor and spur DeVonte Holloman. But Sutton is not expecting a drop-off.
“We’re called ‘Goon Squad’ for a reason,” Sutton said. “When we come out on the field we want to play to a high standard. We want to get better as a unit and be ready to go when the season kicks off. I think we’re off to a good start.”