The biggest difference in Arizona State’s defensive line this year, UCLA coach Jim Mora said, is the presence of tackle Will Sutton.
Last season, the Bruins escaped Tempe with a 45-43 win. Throughout that game, however, the eventual Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year was sidelined with a knee injury.
They won’t have the same luck Saturday at 4 p.m.
“He’s got John Randle-type explosiveness,” Mora said. “He’s got Warren Sapp-type pass-rush ability. He’s absolutely for sure a first-round pick. He might be a top-five, top-10 pick.”
UCLA defensive end Keenan Graham was nearly as effusive in comparing Sutton to former UCLA standout and second-round draft pick Brian Price. Graham was redshirting when Price earned All-American honors in 2009 and said Sutton’s balance of quickness and size reminded him of his former teammate.
“He’s definitely like that,” Graham said. “Really quick off the ball. He can get after the quarterback.”
The stats, however, don’t support those sentiments. After receiving a surprisingly low fifth-round grade from an NFL draft advisory committee, Sutton returned to Arizona State and put on nearly 40 pounds. His effectiveness as a pass rusher seems to have dipped.
The numbers for Sutton, now listed at 6-feet and 305 pounds, have dropped from 23.5 tackles for loss to 8.5 and 12 sacks to two.
James Close to return
Starting tailback Jordon James has missed half the season with a lingering ankle injury derailing what had been a torrid start to his junior season.
The 5-foot-9 back was the nation’s fifth-ranked rusher before going down and had 424 yards and five touchdowns in his first three games. Expected to return this Saturday, his recovery was set back on Nov. 2, when he rushed six times in a 45-23 blowout of Colorado and spent the end of the game icing his ankle.
“That’s on me,” Mora said. “He wanted to play, but sometimes the coach’s job is to protect him from himself. But he’s really been good this week.
“Last week, when he was going to his left and trying to catch a swing pass, he couldn’t put his right foot in the ground and burst off of it. This week, I haven’t seen anything. I haven’t seen him limp, I haven’t seen him favor it at all on any of the cuts.”
Senior running back Malcolm Jones was cleared to play after suffering a blow to the head last Friday. He had a career-high 61 yards on nine carries against the Huskies before wobbling to the sideline and being carted off the Rose Bowl field.
Receiver Devin Fuller is a game-time decision after suffering an undisclosed injury last Friday. He dressed for practice this week.
UCLA has selected ZGF Architects to design its new $50 million football facility west of Spaulding Field, where the Bruins currently practice. The firm worked on parts of Oregon’s athletic facilities and also designed many buildings on UC campuses. ... Senior Anthony Barr was named one of four finalists for the Lombardi Award, given annually to the nation’s top lineman or linebacker. Freshman linebacker/running back Myles Jack was among five finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, which honors the most versatile player in the country.
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