95. Sutton Smith basically took away an entire football field

There are 95 days until MACtion returns. Until then, we count the days

In terms of getting to the quarterback, Sutton Smith dominated in his breakout season. As a redshirt-sophomore, the defensive end went on to be a consensus All-American at Northern Illinois with a tie for a nation-leading 14 sacks (tied with Central Michigan’s Joe Ostman) and made quarterbacks and offenses lose 95 yards to lead the country. By my math, that’s almost a whole football field.

Smith was also atop of the leader boards with 29.5 tackles for loss, a loss of 140 yards — about a football field and a half.

The reason Smith was so incredible last year was his mix of speed and getting off the ball quicker than the opposing linemen. In some of the highlight clips below, it’s clear and jaw-dropping at just how quick Smith can get in the backfield and make a play. If you’re ever wondering how someone at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds could be so dominant at his position where he’s going up against guys that have 80 or 90 pounds on him, it’s because he uses the weight gap to his advantage.

In his weekly newsletter for The DeKalb Daily Chronicle, NIU beat writer Josh Tolentino spoke with Smith about his speed and keeping up the tempo heading into his junior season:

JT: You’re coming off really the best year you could ever have, How do you keep that bar high? What are some early expectations heading into next season? 

SS: “Just try to keep the film work going and being able to gain weight and keep a lot of my speed, which I think I’m on the right track of doing. All my maxes have gone up and I’m still pretty fast. It’s been a pretty successful offseason so far. Those are the first couple steps in being a better player for next season.

“There’s no doubt we’re going to have a great defense next year with all the key players we get back. It’s eating me alive, I want to get back and start hitting some other guys and I haven’t even started hitting my own guys! There’s a lot of competitive nature in our locker room. There will be spots on the depth chart that are won and lost. But that’s the name of the game. We’ve all got to stay hungry and want it more than anyone.

“I’m ready to hit something. I want to get out there and get going. Everybody needs a break from the game, but for me, I haven’t had a break. I don’t want one yet. If you take a break you get out of rhythm. I’m not about breaks.”

Two and a half months later, Tolentino tweeted out a note from one of NIU’s spring practices.

Sutton Smith highlights


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