Even though he was only able to coach new Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton one year in college, Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop knows quite a bit about the team’s third-round draft pick. During a Tuesday interview with David Todd on ESPN 970, Shoop talked glowingly about Sutton the person as well as the player and how he thinks he’s a good fit with the Steelers.
Shoop opened with his thoughts on Sutton by saying that he recruited the cornerback while he was the defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt.
“Part of the reason I came to Tennessee was I had recruited Cam hard out of high school,” Shoop recalled. “I recruited a couple of these defensive players hard and I knew that they were coming into their senior year. When the opportunity presented itself to be a part of this thing, I jumped at it because I knew how good these kids were and how they had built this thing up, and things along those lines.
“And unfortunately, Cam only really played a handful of games for us this year because he broke his ankle. To me, he’s a guy, who in 2013 as freshman, was thrown right into the mix and started right off the bat. And he wasn’t the most highly recruited guy. He was recruited for a lot of the same reasons he was drafted. Smart, unselfish, tough, versatile, all of those things and he found his way into the starting lineup.”
Shoop went on to say that when Sutton was fully healthy in 2013 and 2014 that he considered him to an “upper-level player” in all of college football at the time.
“I think everybody feels that way and even Kevin Colbert had mentioned that to me and went back and watched a lot of film on him,” Shoop said. “2015, he [Sutton] had some injuries, but he was still very, very solid and really excelled as well in the return game. I think of the 45 punts that he returned, I think he returned three for touchdowns and he was an All-American punt returner in 2015.
“In 2016, I had heard all this about him – this is when I got here – and in the spring I watched a guy who was like a five-year, ten-year veteran. He took impeccable notes in the meetings, he sat in the front row, he asked intelligent questions, he led the way and set the pace for the young players and was having a great spring. He would be the first one out to practice, he had a stretching routine, he had a routine off the JUGS machine, he’d work on his footwork by himself. He’d do all those things and he was on pace and on par to lead the way and help us become the type of team that we wanted to be this year.”
Shoop said Sutton’s broken ankle that he suffered during Tennessee’s third game of the season ultimately sidelined the cornerback for a while but that he chose to press on and make it back for the end of the season even though he wasn’t fully healthy.
“A lesser person, or a lesser player might have just said, ‘Listen, I’m going to get ready for the Senior Bowl, I’m going to get ready for the combine.’ But he battled his way back and probably played at about 70 percent the last couple of games,” Shoop said. “He played against Kentucky, Missouri, Vanderbilt and then the bowl game and really, I just feel horrible, because I feel like he was not certainly at 100 percent but gave maximum effort and just him being out there provided leadership and guidance, and really helped some of our young players through some adversity.”
Shoop says Sutton being a three-sport player in high school shows on the field and he went on talk more about what his former player excels at and how he thinks he’s a great fit with the Steelers.
“He’s got good quickness, he’s got good size. Not necessarily long, but he does have good size and he’s got really strong upper, upper level ball skills,” Shoop said of Sutton, who recorded seven interceptions during his college career at Tennessee. “I think the versatility piece is not being overplayed here. Here’s a guy who thinks he can play corner, at the Senior Bowl volunteered to play nickel or safety.
“He’s got the football intelligence to play any of those positions. He’s a good tackler, not a great tackler, but he gets you down and in today’s day and age that’s what corners need to do, get you down. He can play bump and run, he can play the off technique, he can re-route. He can blitz as a corner, he can blitz as a nickel and I went back after the draft and watched a little bit of the Steelers film, he really fits, to me, what they look for and what they ask their corners to do.”
Shoop also relayed an interesting pre-draft story to Todd concerning the Steelers dealings with Sutton when they went to Tennessee to talk to him.
“I think the thing that sold Coach Tomlin and Kevin Colbert about him was when they came here – this is really a cool story – they did an interview with him where they sat down and said, ‘Put on a game film and talk about your responsibilities,'” Shoop said. “And he [Sutton] put on our Appalachian State film, because it was the first game of the year and one of our games he played in, and he went through the first 15 plays and not only gave his responsibility and alignment, but he gave everybody on the defense.
“And they went, ‘Alright.’ And as Kevin tells the story, he went, ‘Alright, alright, you knew we were going to ask that.’ He goes, ‘Let me pick the game, let me pick it,’ and Kevin picked and he [Sutton] went and did the exact same thing. And I texted both Kevin and Mike right after they drafted him and said, ‘Great pick’ and they both said, ‘Love this kid. He’s going to be a great pro.’ And so, hes special and the same as Josh [Dobbs], their character, their toughness, their football intelligence and their athletic ability are going to help them be pro football players for a long time.”
While Sutton played primarily on the left side and outside during his career at Tennessee, Shoop doesn’t think that will be a problem for Sutton at the NFL level.
“With some people it makes a difference,” Shoop started. “In college, the field’s a little bit different than the NFL so sometimes more boundary than field where in the NFL it’s either left or right, or you match a corner with a particular guy. Cam’s intelligent enough and versatile enough to do any of those things. We did not use him as the nickel, we used another player as the nickel, because he was so valuable to us on the outside. But he can and has played the nickel before I got here and I think he would actually be an excellent slot or nickel corner. I think he could match up really well on slot guys, because he does have good short-area quickness and can do those type of things.”
You can hear Shoop’s entire interview with Todd below.