BBD Staff Writer: Joe Marino
After a disappointing 38-14 loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game that cost them a trip to the Rose Bowl, Arizona State (10-3) will be looking to rebound with a victory over Texas Tech (7-5) in the Holiday Bowl (Monday, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).
The Arizona State defense will be challenged by the nation’s second-ranked passing offense, which features standout tight end Jace Amaro. Several Sun Devils defenders with an NFL future will be relied upon to slow down the Red Raiders’ prolific spread aerial attack.
Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech, Jr. (6’5’’, 260 lbs)
With 98 catches for 1,240 yards and seven touchdowns, Amaro has had a breakout junior season for the Red Raiders, leading many to believe he should declare for the 2014 NFL Draft. Amaro has game-changing playmaking ability and will be in the discussion to be the 2014 draft’s top tight end should he declare.
Amaro impacts the passing game by just stepping on the field and commanding the attention of the defense. Opposing secondaries flow to Amaro, which frees up outside receivers to get open and make plays. Amaro has a terrific frame and incredibly long arms which provide a huge catching radius for his quarterback, and he often proves to be too much for a single defender to handle.
Amaro is competitive at the catch point and makes catches in traffic. He is physical after the catch and difficult to bring down with the ball in his hands. Amaro runs good routes and knows where to sit in zones to provide a safety valve for the quarterback.
Amaro is also impressive in his ability as a blocker. He is excellent blocking in the boundary, at the second level and in line. He finishes blocks and frequently puts his opponent on the ground.
With Amaro’s skillset, he brings a valuable dimension to an offense that is difficult to defend. If he makes himself available for the draft, he is a worthy of a first-round selection.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State, Sr. (6’1’’, 288 lbs)
With a decrease in production this season from last, Sutton figures to be one of the most debated prospects this draft season. Sutton added additional weight this season, but had just 42 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two pass breakups and no forced fumbles after recording 63 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, five pass breakups and three forced fumbles as a junior. That said, Sutton was still named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
Compared to last season, Sutton has improved his hand usage and is still a high-motor, penetrating defensive lineman. He has good initial quickness off the snap and plays with a physical demeanor.
Sutton has not shown the same explosive playmaking ability that he displayed as a junior. Sutton can win with quickness, but he isn’t stout enough to hold his ground at the line of scrimmage and is easily driven off the ball. When he tries to side step blockers, he gets further out of alignment, creating holes on the defense. He needs to fight pressure with pressure and stay in his fits.
Sutton is a good hand fighter, but he lacks the length to create separation from blockers and struggles to disengage. His overall measurables are worrisome.
Sutton is a player who is likely to be ranked all over NFL teams’ draft boards, and some teams might not include him altogether, but in the right situation, Sutton could excel and be a solid rotational lineman with playmaking ability. He will be a prospect to monitor during the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.
Chris Young, OLB, Arizona State, Sr. (6’1’’, 230 lbs)
Young has been a solid starter for the Sun Devils defense since transferring to Arizona State from the junior college ranks in 2012. A second-team all-Pac-12 selection as a senior, he has compiled 95 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks this year heading into the Holiday Bowl.
Young is a downhill, physical player who projects as a solid two-down player in the NFL. He takes very good angles to the football and tackles well. He is a heavy hitter who drives his hips through contact.
Young has to clean wasted movement after the snap that shows up in his game primarily when he drops into coverage. He is not fluid dropping back into coverage.
Young is not a great athlete, but he overcomes that with solid instincts and a consistent motor. He has the makings of a mid-round pick with the upside to develop.
See page 2 for a look at more prospects to watch Monday.