Utah Utes football: Kruger brothers look bigger, better

Published: Friday, March 23 2012 1:07 a.m. MDT

Utah Utes defensive end Joe Kruger (99) celebrates a sack as the University of Utah plays UCLA in PAC 12 football Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — When the Utah Utes opened spring camp this week, head coach Kyle Whittingham noted that the Kruger brothers — Dave and Joe — were bigger and better versions of themselves.

And that's saying something.

Both have added muscle mass to their already large frames, bringing more bulk to the top of Utah's depth chart on the defensive line.

"You can tell. They're more physicality to both of them — not that they weren't physical in the first place," Whittingham said. "But any time you put on 15 pounds of good weight it's going to be an asset for you."

Joe, a 6-foot-7, 275-pound junior, has already seeing benefits of it in Utah's first two spring practices.

"I have a lot more power," he said. "I can just throw the o-linemen around a little bit easier."

Same goes for Dave, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound senior.

"He's throwing the o-linemen around like they're nothing," Joe said. "So it's good."

It'll come in handy when conference play rolls around this fall.

"The o-linemen in the Pac-12 are a lot bigger," Joe added. "They're really strong, so it's going to help us out a lot."

Dave agrees.

"It's always necessary to match or kind of be close to the weight of the position you're going against," he explained while noting that the brothers have added the weight progressively, which is the best way to do it.

Whittingham credited the players for their offseason work in the weight room. He also praised strength and conditioning coach Doug Elisaia for leading the effort.

Utah's beefed up defensive front has the potential to be as formidable as past editions. The Utes open spring camp with Nate Fakahafua, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound sophomore, as the projected starter at left end — opposite of Joe Kruger. Senior all-American candidate Star Lotulelei (6-4, 325) joins Dave Kruger inside at tackle.

PRO DAY: Utah's annual "Pro Day" is set for Friday morning at the Alex Smith Strength and Conditioning Facility and the Spence Eccles Field House. The event with NFL scouts is closed to the public. Scheduled participants include former Utes James Aiono, Shawn Asiata, Tony Bergstrom, Greg Bird, Conroy Black, Wise Cilumba, John Cullen, Tevita Finau, Nai Fotu, Kenny Golladay, Matt Martinez, Dexter Ransom, Derrick Shelby, Lei Talamaivao and Chaz Walker.

TEAMING WITH TEBOW: Former Ute Sione Pouha of the New York Jets, who attended Thursday's practice, is excited about the NFL franchise's addition of quarterback Tim Tebow.

"Anybody that wears the green and white I've definitely got their back," Pouha said while referring to it as a fraternity. "I'm happy to be a teammate of his and for him to be a teammate of mine."

Pouha added that he isn't worried about how things will work with Tebow and returning starter Mark Sanchez.

"I'm sure the coaches have a great game plan," Pouha said.

YOUNG GUNS: Although true freshmen Travis Wilson and Chase Hansen haven't been with the program very long, the quarterbacks are making quite an impression.

Whittingham said they're making very few mistakes as far as their command of the offense.

"It's very impressive," he explained. "That's probably the thing that stands out the most."

KNOCKING IT DOWN: Whittingham is scheduled to drive a bulldozer into the old football facility Tuesday in a ceremony of sorts before the building is demolished.

"That's what they tell me," Whittingham said. "I'm just going to put that thing in charge and go."

EXTRA POINTS: Former Utah running back Quinton Ganther is helping the Utes out this spring as a student coach. He's finishing up his degree this semester and may return to the NFL again as a player next fall . . . The Utes will don pads for the first time in camp on Saturday from 10 a.m.-noon . . . All spring practices at Rice-Eccles Stadium are open to the public.

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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