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Utah Utes football: Kruger family pipeline still pumping talent into Utah football program

SALT LAKE CITY — Brothers Dave and Joe Kruger give the Utah Utes a combined 13 feet of height and 550 pounds on the defensive line. The younger siblings of former Utah star Paul Kruger, now with the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, are expected to make sizeable contributions this fall.

Dave (6-5, 290), a sophomore nose tackle, and Joe (6-7, 260), a freshman defensive end, entered camp high on the depth chart and through three days of practice are solidifying spots in the rotation.

"Absolutely," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "They will play."

Barring anything unforeseen, that's the plan.

It's a proven pipeline.

"The Krugers have been a big part of Utah football for the past several years," Whittingham said. "...They have been an instrumental part of our success."

And how.

Paul Kruger was an all-conference defensive end on the Utes' undefeated Sugar Bowl championship team. He opted to turn pro that spring and was selected by Baltimore in the second round of the NFL Draft.

Dave Kruger was a redshirt during Paul's final year at Utah and began his collegiate career in 2009, earning Freshman All-America honors.

Joe Kruger is the latest addition from the family. He's a true freshman, months removed from an all-state campaign at Pleasant Grove High School.

The fact that Utah nearly had all three brothers in the program at the same time is something Whittingham has thought about.

"I tried to talk Paul into that," he noted with a laugh. "I said 'Just think if you wait a couple of years, there could be three.' He thought for a minute and said, 'Yeah, you're right. Well, I've got to go.' "

It's a topic the brothers have discussed often over the years.

"We always talk about that and how cool that would be," Dave Kruger said.

Paul Kruger, however, had an opportunity too good to pass up.

"The three Kruger brothers on the D-line," Joe said. "It would have been super fun, but too bad it didn't happen."

What is happening, though, is that two of them are poised to play together for the Utes this season.

"It's awesome. It kind of helps you become more calm. I play a little better when I'm with my little brother. We played in high school, and I think it makes a big difference just because we both stay calm on the field," Dave Kruger said. "We just do our thing. We're not worried about making a mistake and missing plays. We actually make plays together. ... There's something about me and him on the field, it helps both of us to make plays."

They're helping each other out in camp, offering critiques involving steps and such. With Joe Kruger being new to the program, Dave is assisting him with some of the plays.

"The transition from high school to this is huge. I mean, it's a lot. It's 10 times harder," said Joe Kruger, who is worrying about depth charts. "I'm just trying to work hard and earn a spot. That's what I'm trying to do right now."

Paul and Dave Kruger helped prepare him for college football, sharing insight about what it's like and how hard it is. Having a brother with him in camp has been beneficial.

"I've made a lot of mistakes already and every time I do, he'll just come over and help me out," Joe Kruger said, while re-emphasizing how calm it makes them.

As for following in his brothers' footsteps, Joe Kruger explained that Utah is where he wants to be.

"It's really cool. It's a lot to uphold," he said, while noting the accomplishments of his older brothers. "I'm trying my best, trying to be just as good as them."

EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham said Saturday morning's practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium was "good competition" and "very spirited." Standouts, noted by Whittingham, include junior cornerback Conroy Black and young receivers Terrell Reese, Kenneth Scott, Reggie Dunn and Dres Anderson. ... The players will get Sunday off and resume camp Monday. They'll don full pads for the first time on Tuesday and begin two-a-days on Wednesday. A scrimmage is set for Thursday morning.

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com