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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Utah's Paul Kruger

Freshmen and sophomores often spend time on the sidelines watching and learning from the juniors and seniors.

However, at nationally ranked BYU and Utah, several youngsters are already on the field making an impact.

BYU

The newcomer having the most impact for the Cougars this season is freshman Matt Reynolds, who redshirted last year after returning from an LDS mission.

Reynolds became the starter during fall camp, when projected starting center Tom Sorensen went down with a shoulder injury. Reynolds' older brother, Dallas, moved from left tackle — Dallas was an all-conference selection at that spot last year — to center and BYU coaches handed Matt the left tackle job.

While Matt Reynolds surrendered a blindside hit of quarterback Max Hall — who fumbled, resulting in a Northern Iowa touchdown — in the season-opener, he has been solid overall.

"He's doing an exceptional job," said BYU right guard Travis Bright. "Not to dog on Dallas or anyone, but he may be one of the best Reynolds (brothers, which also includes former Cougar Lance Reynolds Jr.).

"He's a really good player. He's very young but he's picking things up very fast. He's very athletic, very strong. He has a desire to get better ... he's a great left tackle but he continues to do the extra things to get better. I wouldn't pick any one else on this team to play in the spot but him."

"He's learning quick," Dallas Reynolds said of Matt. "He doesn't make the same mistake twice."

Another newcomer making his presence felt is junior outside linebacker Coleby Clawson, a JC transfer from Snow College. Clawson made a big splash in his debut, landing some big hits on UNI quarterback Pat Grace.

"I like the way he plays," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "He plays with heart and he plays with effort. And he's tough. He was one of the real bright spots (in the opener). I think we can use him at a higher rate than we did. I was very impressed with him."

In two games, Clawson has 11 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, one sack and one forced fumble.

"I think Coleby will step right in and make plays for us," said linebacker David Nixon.

Other first-year players making a splash include freshman placekicker Justin Sorensen, who recorded five touchbacks against Northern Iowa; and freshman kick returner O'Neill Chambers, who is averaging 27.9 yards per kickoff return (he recorded a 51-yarder in the opener).

UTAH

Defensive end Paul Kruger is already providing quite an encore to his first campaign with the Utes. After earning Freshman All-America honors in 2007, Kruger is Utah's leading tackler two games into the season. He's made 14 stops, including four behind the line of scrimmage, in victories against Michigan and UNLV.

Fellow sophomore Nai Fotu is also performing well. The Utes' starting stud linebacker has 11 tackles, 3.5 for loss and a sack.

"They're both very talented kids. They're both very smart kids and two of the staples of our defense. No question," defensive coordinator Gary Andersen said. "Both still have a lot to learn, and I think their best days are ahead of them.

But they're functioning at a pretty high level right now."

Another youngster to watch, he added, is redshirt freshman Derrick Shelby. Kruger's primary backup at right end will likely help out at the injury-depleted tackle position. Shelby got 17 reps last week and has a bright future.

Freshmen and sophomores have also made an impact on offense. Sophomore linemen Caleb Schlauderaff and Zane Taylor have started both games, while freshman Tony Bergstrom filled in for injured left tackle Zane Beadles against UNLV.

Schlauderaff, a left guard, leads Utah with seven pancake blocks; Taylor, the center, tops the team with nine knockdowns; and Bergstrom played 55 snaps last Saturday.

At the skill positions, two sophomores — quarterback Corbin Louks and wide receiver Jereme Brooks — have already scored touchdowns in 2008.

Louks injured his shoulder on his one and only play this season. He fell on it while crossing the goal line on an 8-yard touchdown run in the 25-23 win over Michigan.

Brooks had a 55-yard reception in that game and followed it with a 32-yard touchdown catch from running back Matt Asiata in the UNLV game.


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