Kruger’s versatility makes him valuable

By By Bryan Chouinard

By Bryan Chouinard

Going into the Sugar Bowl, all the talk leading up to the big game centered on the size difference between Alabama’s offensive line and Utah’s defensive line.

It was expected that Alabama head coach Nick Saban would run the ball relentlessly with junior running back Glen Coffee behind an offensive line fit for the pros and the “smaller, weaker” defensive line of Utah would eventually give in.

That’s what was supposed to happen.

When it was all said and done, and the Utes were crowned the 2009 Sugar Bowl champions, Coffee’s final stat line read as follows: 13 attempts, 36 yards, 2.8 yards per carry and no rushing touchdowns.

Utah’s defensive line played inspired football, not only in the Sugar Bowl, but all season long, and the Utes did so behind Paul Kruger.

Although Kruger was only a redshirt sophomore, he was looked at as one of the leaders of the Utah defense, a testament to not only his play, but also his maturity.

Kruger was older than most sophomores in collegiate sports, largely because of his two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after his redshirt year in 2004, in which he was originally recruited as a quarterback.

Maturity served Kruger well, as he finished the 2008 season as a first-team All-Mountain West Conference selection with 61 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and seven pass breakups.

Kruger is exactly the kind of defensive player more and more NFL scouts are looking for out of college as the 3-4 defensive scheme becomes more and more prevalent in today’s game. The key to the “3-4” is having interchangeable pieces, mostly between the linebacker and down-linemen positions.

One of the most successful displays of such a defense is the Baltimore Ravens.

In the Ravens’ case, a player they like to move around a lot is the sixth-year terror out of Arizona State, Terrell Suggs. Suggs, who is listed as 6-foot-3-inch, 260 lbs., is a nightmare for offensive coordinators because he can line up in a number of different spots and do a number of different things. He can line up as defensive end, blitz from the outside linebacker position or even drop back into coverage.

It’s this versatility that makes him such a crucial part of the Ravens’ defense8212;and versatility is written all over Kruger’s frame.

Although after the NFL combine, many scouts thought Kruger still needed to put on more weight, the 23-year-old from Orem can be this kind of player at the next level. Kruger terrorized teams off the end all season long and made opposing MWC offensive coordinators quake in their boots.

But at the next level, where linemen are not only stronger, but also faster, look for Kruger to do his damage from both the defensive end and outside linebacker positions.

Listed as 6-foot-5, 265-lbs., Kruger is the perfect size to become a Suggs-like force, whose versatility and combination of strength and speed will make him a valuable asset to any “3-4” system.

It’s been argued that because Kruger has only two years of collegiate football under his belt, his age made the choice to jump to the NFL an easy one.

Considering Kruger came back from two years away from the game to accumulate 119 tackles, 10.5 sacks and two interceptions in a position he wasn’t even recruited for, he has the intelligence and the drive to become a force to be reckoned with at the next level for years to come.

[email protected]

Bryan Chouinard