Monday, April 30, 2012
Under the radar: Utah
By ESPN.com staff
We're continuing with our under the radar series.
The idea is to pick out a player who is not a big name but who may be underrated. Or, at least, a guy who will need to step up and play a critical role in 2012.
We're going in reverse alphabetical order.
Utah: DE Joe Kruger
2011 production: Kruger had 35 tackles, five tackles for a loss and three sacks in 2011.
Making the case for Kruger: First off, I realize a Kruger doesn't go under the radar in Salt Lake City. Former Ute and older bro Paul, plays for the Baltimore Ravens. Other older brother Dave is a starting defensive tackle. His brother in law is former Utes offensive tackle and new Oakland Raider Tony Bergstrom. Finally, mercurial brother, Freddie, had a nice movie career and apparently is retired and living in a sweet Malibu beach house. Yes, folks in Salt Lake know the Krugers. Moreover, Joe, at a lean 6-foot-7, 275 pounds, is hard to miss. But when some benighted souls in the Pac-12 blather about Utah being overrated and the like, I sometimes -- in less than charitable moments -- imagine one of Joe's catcher's mitt hands enveloping said critics face and casting him into the stratosphere. But here's the deal. Kruger, who was a force this spring, has moved from the less flashy left side to right end, which was manned last year by the highly productive Derrick Shelby (55 tackles, 10 TFL, five sacks). I wouldn't be surprised if Kruger ends up with eight to 10 sacks in 2012. I see the true junior with sneaky speed as being poised for a breakout year. It also helps that offensive coordinators are going to be obsessing about handling 325-pound DT Star Lotulelei inside. If they commit two blockers to him, which is highly likely, that means less attention on the edge for Kruger. Perhaps as much as any team in the conference, the Utes seem fully capable of getting consistent pressure with just a four-man rush, which any defensive coordinator will tell you is a gift from the football gods. Don't be surprised if Kruger ends up getting some All-Conference attention this coming fall. Maybe Freddie will come to a game?