Chaz Sutton came to Columbia out of Fork Union Military Academy by way of Jenkins High School in Savannah, GA. A four-star recruit, Sutton was considered the 8th-best prep defensive end in the United States when he signed with South Carolina in February 2008.
In his five years in Columbia, Sutton moved from top recruit to starting defensive end, anchoring a line that became a strength of three excellent defenses from 2011-13, a time during which the Gamecocks went 33-6.
In his first year in Columbia, Sutton played in five games and recorded one tackle before a left hamstring injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season. While a setback for him personally, the injury left Sutton eligible for a medical redshirt, which ultimately extended his stay at South Carolina for an extra season.
Sutton played in seven games and recorded five tackles and a sack on the season. However, he (and Carolina fans) likely remember only one of Chaz Sutton's contributions from the 2010 season - an interception return for a 56-yard touchdown that capped a 56-point first hafl for the Gamecocks in their 69-24 win over Troy.
It was Sutton's only interception as a Gamecock, so full credit to him for making it count.
Sutton began to step forward in his sophomore season, appearing in all 13 games and even starting the Kentucky game. He served as the backup defensive end for Devin Taylor and Melvin Ingram (who moved down from his prior spot at linebacker) and recorded 13 tackles on the season as he tried to break into the regular playing rotation.
Sutton finally broke through into regular playing time in 2012, depsite still playing a back-up role to Devin Taylor and this time to newcomer Jadeveon Clowney. Still, between a regular rotation of ends and occasional deployment of the rabbits package in passing downs, Sutton saw action in every game and recorded 25 tackles (7 for loss, with 5 of those sacks) with two forced fumbles. One of those sacks involved Sutton utterly dominating Georgia's left guard on a night where the South Carolina defensive line played as well as any that's ever worn the garnet and black:
Coming into the 2013 season, Sutton finally got the opportunity to regularly start for the Gamecocks. He seemed ready to seize it, especially given his offseason work - he was awarded the OUtstanding Weight Room award for the defense at South Carolina's 2013 Garnet & Black Spring Game (n.b., the game is of no relation to this humble blog).
Despite talk in some quarters that he wasn't as productive as folks hoped for given the attention drawn to Jadeveon Clowney, the defense as a whole played extremely well against a challenging slate of offenses throughout the 2013 season (even in games against non-elite teams, they normally paired an excellent offense - UNC, UCF, UGA, Clemson - with a less-than-stellar defense, not the other way around).
Chaz tallied 32 tackles on the 2013 season, with 8.5 of those going for losses (3 of which were sacks). He also made big play after big play, including:
- A sack-and-a-half against Vanderbilt in a 35-25 win:
- Six tackles in an excellent (though losing) effort against Tennessee
- Assisting in forcing a fumble against Mississippi State to open the second half, when that game still seemed in doubt:
- Ripping the ball away from Tajh Boyd against Clemson, when the Tigers were driving in the fourth quarter trying to tie the score. The image of Sutton simply taking the ball from Boyd is one that will likely last with Gamecock fans when they think back on his time here for years to come:
- Against Wisconsin, like it seems every senior did, Sutton went out with one to remember, sacking the quarterback to end a Wisconsin drive when it looked as if the Gamecocks might not be able to stop the Badgers' offense:
While the stats didn't always make Sutton look like a cog of the defense, his coaches didn't agree with the numbers - he played through a sprained ankle for a large portion of the season yet kept suiting up every Saturday, putting together what Lorenzo Ward described as a "solid" senior season.
Sutton leaves the Gamecocks with fringe NFL prospects but can look back on his time with the Gamecocks as a solid contributor to four of the best teams that ever came out of the tunnel at Williams-Brice Stadium. He leaves Columbia with what we hope are fond memories, as well as a degree in hospitality management.
Thanks for everything Chaz, and good luck to you in whatever your future holds. Farewell, Chaz Sutton!