EL PASO, Texas — Utah defensive tackle Dave Kruger has never missed a game since taking the field after a redshirt year in 2008. The junior has appeared in 38 consecutive contests over the past three seasons, starting in 27 of them.
It's a streak that will end, however, Saturday when the Utes face Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. A leg infection will keep Kruger on the sidelines.
Defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake said not having him in the game will hurt. Kruger, though, is still bringing something to the table.
"His leadership is huge for us. Having him out here at the bowl game has been good for our team and morale on defense. So we're using him as much as we can," Sitake said, while crediting defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a for doing a great job. "Luckily we have a lot of depth there and we have the opportunity to move a bunch of guys around. So we feel pretty comfortable with the players that we have going into this game."
Sitake, however, emphasized that Kruger has played a huge role in preparing the Utes for the bowl game. Senior James Aiono is expected to start in his place.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged it'll be tough on Kruger, but noted that he does have another year left to play and expects him to have a great senior season.
"Nobody is more competitive than Dave Kruger. He loves football. He's a guy that loves to come out everyday and practice. He loves everything about it," Whittingham said. "It's tough on him but like I said he'll be back and hopefully has a great senior year."
HIGH PRAISE: Utah assistant Norm Chow had kind things to say about Sitake at Thursday's press conferences featuring coordinators from both teams.
"He's going to be a fabulous head coach, coordinator, NFL coach someday," said Chow, who is leaving the Utes to become the new head coach at Hawaii. "I'm prejudice because I coached him in college and it's been a real honor to work with him. He understands the game."
Chow then expressed appreciation for being on Whittingham's staff and working with people like Sitake.
WYNN UPDATE: Injured quarterback Jordan Wynn isn't speaking to the media at the Sun Bowl. Whittingham, though, insists all is well.
"Jordan's got a great attitude. The positive thing is he's right on schedule with his rehab and sees the light at the end of the tunnel now as far as being ready to get back on the field and start throwing and all that stuff," Whittingham said. "So that makes it a little bit easier and takes some of the edge off."
EXTRA POINTS: A press conference featuring Whittingham and Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson is scheduled for Friday morning. The Rotary Sun Bowl luncheon follows, while the "Fan Fiesta" featuring a "Battle of the Bands" and fireworks is set for the evening ... The weather is warming as the game approaches. Clear skies and a high of 65 degrees is expected Saturday ... Starting left guard Miles Mason remains questionable with an elbow injury.
Email: email@example.com Twitter: @DirkFacer
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company