Koa Misi and Paul Kruger are formidable forces on the University of Utah's defensive line.

The ends are making quite an impact as the Utes prepare for their Aug. 30 season-opener at Michigan.

"They've both had tremendous camps, and they're both very talented kids," defensive coordinator Gary Andersen said while noting that expectations are high.

"I think they're one of the best sets of defensive ends in the country," he added. "I've said that for a long time, and I'm going to stick by that. I truly believe that. They're doing a nice job."

Misi had three sacks in Utah's first scrimmage early this week, and Kruger was recently named to the Mountain West's preseason all-conference team.

"I really like those guys," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "I think that they're going to give us pressure on the quarterback."

And that, he explained, makes the play in the secondary even more effective. The Utes led the nation in pass-efficiency defense in 2007.

"I think we're going to be good. Paul helps push the quarterback my way, and I help push the quarterback his way," Misi said. "I think we'll be a pretty good tandem."

Kruger played in all 13 games last season and made 63 tackles to earn Freshman All-America honors. Misi also appeared in every game. He made 67 stops while showing his versatility by filling in a tackle when injuries mounted after two games.

"Koa played good football for us last year," Whittingham said.

"But he'll be a full-time end if everything goes as planned, and that's really where he's most comfortable."

Misi, a 6-foot-3, 263-pound junior from Santa Rosa, Calif., led the defensive line in tackles. He made eight stops behind the line of scrimmage, including 2.5 sacks. In addition, Misi broke up two passes and recovered two fumbles.

"Koa's an amazing player," said Kruger, who acknowledged the pair are good friends and are having fun manning the starting end positions. They push each other and have a friendly competition.

"We're both excited for the season," he added. "There's a lot of anticipation."

Plus size and speed.

Kruger, who was a quarterback at Timpanogos High School, gives Utah a 6-foot-5, 265-pound body on the right end.

Add Misi and projected starting tackles Kenape Eliapo and Greg Newman to the mix, and the Utes have 1,091 pounds of pressure on the defensive line to attack opposing offenses. A trio of athletic linebackers and a veteran secondary round out Utah's first unit.

"Our defense is getting pretty strong right now," Misi said. "I think we'll be good this year."

They certainly were in Tuesday's scrimmage — making 12 tackles for loss, nine sacks and four pass breakups.

"I think it went pretty good," Misi said. "Everybody was pretty assignment-sound."

Camp central

First down: The Utes practiced once Thursday. Their third two-a-day of the week is scheduled for Friday.

Head-turner: Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said it was great to get linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (knee tendinitis) back on the field. He's a playmaker, said Whittingham, who also liked how defensive end Koa Misi, safety Robert Johnson, running back Darrell Mack and wide receiver Freddie Brown performed Thursday.

Injury report: Defensive tackle Aaron Tonga's recovery from an MCL strain is ahead of schedule. He may be able to return in a week or so. Wide receiver David Reed (wisdom tooth extraction) returned to action Thursday.


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