In his first full year at Arizona State, William Sutton played in 12 football games and gradually lost 40 pounds, putting himself in position to have an impressive sophomore season.
If only he'd paid the same amount of attention to academics, Sutton would have had that opportunity in 2010 instead of this year.
With a little over a week left before the season opener against Portland State, the NCAA ruled Sutton ineligible for the season due to academic issues.
The year counted as a redshirt season for Sutton, who will still play as a sophomore for the Sun Devils in 2011.
The departure of defensive tackle Lawrence Guy from Arizona State to the NFL Draft left a crucial starting position vacant heading into spring practice, and it is Sutton who is expected to fill that void.
"It was hard because I did all that hard work but they shot me down," Sutton said. "I didn't gain [the weight] back. I kept it off and look at me now.
"Coming in the spring, I had a feeling I'd be out there on the [first team] after Lawrence left. I just had to come out and prove that I was [deserving]. So far, I've been doing that."
Despite the inability to display his physical change during the season, Sutton remained an active member of practice as a scout team defensive tackle, where he often caused trouble for the first-team offense.
"I just had to go out there and make my teammates better," Sutton said. "It was for a good cause. I had to go out there and work real hard, give the offensive linemen a good look and prepare them for Saturdays."
Appearing in all 12 games as a true freshman in 2009, Sutton said everything from his pad leverage, to his handwork and footwork has drastically improved. Head coach Dennis Erickson has certainly noticed his potential.
"It actually took him a while to get back into the feel of things, but today he probably had his best practice," Erickson said Thursday. "He's going to get better and better."
At 285 pounds, Sutton's ability to explode off the line of scrimmage has caused trouble for opposing linemen through the first two weeks of spring practice, often drawing a double team. He relies on an aggressive mentality once he enters his defensive stance until the play is blown dead.
"I just don't want the offensive linemen to put their hands on me," Sutton said. "I just want to get off as fast as I can, use my hands and just get them off me because I want to be the first one on the play. I want to make as many plays as I can."
As far as keeping himself academically eligible, Sutton's approach is a bit simpler than his game plan on the field.
"Stop procrastinating," he said. "When I get an assignment, just do it on the spot and get it over with as fast as I can."
Simpson carted off
Senior wide receiver T.J. Simpson suffered a knee injury during 11-on-11 drills Thursday. Simpson ran a hitch route on the play, jumped in an attempt to catch the ball and grabbed his leg as he hit the ground. Simpson is scheduled to undergo an MRI Saturday.
"They're not sure if it's an ACL or not," Erickson said. "We won't know until Saturday but it doesn't look very good right. It's a non-contact deal, it's too bad. But we'll see, it could not be (an ACL) too. They didn't like the looks of it."
After catching 29 balls for 481 yards last season, Simpson was atop the depth chart at the split end position this spring.
Senior offensive tackle Dan Knapp suffered a mild MCL sprain in his left knee. He likely won't be sidelined for any length of time, according to Erickson.
ASU began to install its zone blitz schemes Thursday.
Kicker Alex Garoutte had a solid showing, including converting on a 52-yarder with a lot of room to spare on his lone attempt from the distance. Garoutte had struggled through much of the team's first four practices.