Cameron Sutton is one of the SEC’s top defensive backs, despite receiving less fan fare than others. The rising junior has started in every game for Tennessee since enrolling in 2013 and has matched up favorably against the conference’s best wide receivers.
Sutton had 39 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass breakups in 2014. He also recorded Tennessee’s first punt return for a touchdown since 2012 against Vanderbilt in Week 14.
Despite his efforts, Sutton was snubbed from the All-SEC team. He didn’t even receive an honorable mention.
Tennessee secondary coach Willie Martinez believes Sutton will use his absence from the list as motivation in 2015.
“If I was a betting man — I don’t bet — but if I was guessing, I think it probably motivates him,” Martinez told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in December. “This is a tough league. This is a league that’s got a lot of really good players, and from top to bottom it’s the best in the country.
“I thought he had a good year. Could he have a better one? I bet you he’d be the first one to tell you he could. He’s been really productive for us, and I think he finished fourth in the league in passes defended.
“I was surprised that he wasn’t at least mentioned, whether it’s honorable mention or second- or third-team, but that’s something that gives him an opportunity to be more motivated for the next year.”
Sutton noted that he doesn’t get caught up in media hype and would rather focus on helping his team produce.
“I just embrace that,” he said. “I don’t worry about what the critics and things like that say. I can’t really get caught up on that, because football’s not played on paper. It’s about what you do out there on the field.
“If I continue to keep producing and getting better and working hard each and every day, hopefully it leads me to somewhere I want to be one day.”
The situation is nothing new for Sutton, who was as a three-star prospect and ranked No. 575 overall in the 2013. But with the Vols facing depth concerns, he saw immediate playing time as a true freshman and never conceded his starting spot.
Sutton leads a Tennessee defense that showed vast improvement in coordinator John Jancek’s second season. The “Orange Swarm” earned its moniker with the SEC’s best pass rushing tandem in Derek Barnett and Curt Maggitt.
The Vols should show even more improvement with another year of gained experience. Sutton will be no exception to this theory and should gain attention as one of the SEC’s top defensive backs with a strong junior campaign.