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Utah Utes football: Utes expect several All-MWC accolades

SHARE Utah Utes football: Utes expect several All-MWC accolades

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham expects to see a lot of red, specifically crimson, when the Mountain West Conference football awards are unveiled this afternoon (2 p.m., The mtn.).

"I think we have several players that deserve all-conference honors," Whittingham said. "We should be well-represented."

The Utes won the conference title outright while going 12-0 overall and earning a trip to the Bowl Championship Series.

As such, they have candidates for the league's major individual awards — Whittingham (coach of the year), quarterback Brian Johnson (offensive player of the year), defensive end Paul Kruger (defensive player of the year) and kicker/punter Louie Sakoda (special teams player of the year).

"It's definitely an honor to be able to be recognized like that," Kruger, who didn't know he was nominated for the conference's top defensive award.

The sophomore led the Utes' nationally ranked defense with 15.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He is among a list of nominees that include Air Force defensive end Jake Paulson, BYU defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen, TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes and Wyoming linebacker Ward Dobbs.

"Anything that comes my way I'm happy for the opportunity," Kruger said. "So if I get an award like that, it would be special. But there's always next year."

To be nominated, he added, is a great opportunity.

"It's a special deal to be part of a special group like this," Kruger noted.

On offense, Johnson is a player-of-the-year candidate after guiding the Utes to a perfect record. The other nominees are BYU quarterback Max Hall, Colorado State running back Gartrell Johnson and Wyoming tailback Devin Moore.

Sakoda, meanwhile, is expected to win his third-consecutive special teams award. He's also a finalist for several national accolades.

Johnson, Kruger and Sakoda were joined on the all-conference ballot by several of their teammates. The list includes receivers Freddie Brown and Bradon Godfrey; offensive linemen Zane Beadles, Robert Conley and Zane Taylor; defensive linemen Koa Misi and Greg Newman; linebackers Mike Wright, Stevenson Sylvester and Mike Wright; and defensive backs Brice McCain and Sean Smith.

STOWERS COMING BACK: The NCAA has awarded senior running back Ray Stowers an extra year of eligibility. Stowers was plagued by shoulder problems over his first two seasons with the Utes.


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com