The highly regarded Pat Tillman practice jersey Will Sutton was permitted to wear for the first time Thursday is camouflage, but Sutton knows it doesn't provide the benefit of being able to blend in.
After a consensus All-American junior season that saw him lead Arizona State with 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks en route to Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors, Sutton is getting recognized a lot more no matter where he goes.
"I go out to Red Robin and waitresses are asking me for pictures," Sutton said coyly. "It's cool though. I ain't going to lie."
If anything, the Tillman jersey ironically makes its wearer stand out more than all others on the practice field. Only senior safety Alden Darby has been permitted to wear it since Sun Devil coach Todd Graham introduced the concept prior to last season, and that was short-lived.
"It's a lot of pressure," Darby said Thursday. "You've got to come out here every single day and bring it. You can't have a bad snap much less a bad practice. Everyone is watching you. If you mess up, if you slack, everyone says, 'Will's got that PT jersey on, why's he jogging off the field?' So it's tough but Will's earned it."
Sutton said expectations put upon him by coaches have been elevated, and he's fine with it, even as he's been adjusting to the coaching of another new defensive line coach, Jackie Shipp.
"It's been a hard [transition]," Sutton said. "The style is different. This is my fourth d-line coach since I've been here so learning new techniques and new styles every time, it's difficult at first but you get to know him and it gets easier. I just don't like the down ups when I mess up. I didn't have any today.
"The bar has been a lot higher than what it was last year. That's not just for me, that's for everybody. it just so happens that mine has to be higher than everybody. I accept the challenge. I'm not scared."
Graham said Sutton has improved as a vocal leader this year as well as with his work in the classroom and community, all requirements to be awarded the opportunity to wear the Tillman jersey.
"You've got to earn that and hopefully he earned the right to keep it tomorrow," Graham said. "We've had one guy earn it one day and now we've had Will earn it today. The key for us that we've (got to have) six or seven guys in that all season."
Sutton said he wasn't even sure if the Tillman jersey was a possibility moving forward considering how long it had been since Darby wore it early last season, but that it's an honor he appreciates.
"I didn't really know anything about [Tillman] until I got out here and then just how big of an idol he is out here," Sutton said. "To people who knew Pat Tillman and what he stood for and everything, and hearing people talk about him, because he's somebody who did a lot to work hard for this university and our country, so it means a lot."
Latu switches colors
Graham has occasionally half-joked about the possibility of moving sophomore Mo Latu from offense to the defense, most recently after Latu's excellent work in the so-called "W Drill" during bowl preparations last December.
On Thursday Graham followed through after telling Latu a day earlier he'd be switching from an offensive maroon jersey to a defensive white one in practice the next day.
The Sun Devils have been trying to figure out who is best suited to play the nose tackle position behind sophomore Jaxon Hood, giving reps to seniors Davon Coleman and Jake Sheffield.
Graham told Shipp during Thursday's session to throw Latu right into the fray with the second group and the 6-foot-3, 338-pounder felt it went reasonably well for a first day.
"Just getting out of the same old steps that I used to do as an offensive linemen," Latu said, when asked about the keys to being successful on defense. "Just staying low and being physical and taking over those gaps."
Latu played both ways at Perry High in Gilbert, Ariz., and initially was recruited to ASU as a defensive player.
Graham said Latu needs to lose some weight, but that he has the mentality of a defensive player.
Redshirt freshman safety Laiu Moeakiola returned to practice this week after missing a few sessions due to a death in the family. Thursday he was moved to boundary safety for the first time and worked with the second-team behind Darby. Sophomore Luke Williams earned second-team reps at field safety behind sophomore Ezekiel Bishop.
Sophomore Lloyd Carrington received first-team reps at field cornerback ahead of senior Robert Nelson and sophomore Rashad Wadood Thursday. All three have played with the top group this spring and Graham said the battle for a starting nod is wide open.
After he struggled in a portion of the practice against the run Tuesday, senior linebacker Grandville Taylor was bumped down to the second-team at the WILL position in favor of senior Chris Young, who moved over from the spur. Senior linebacker Anthony Jones took Young's spot with the first-team at spur.
Junior running back Deantre Lewis left practice early after gingerly walking off the field during a team period with an apparent upper leg injury. Lewis has been one of the most improved players on the offense this spring according to Graham.