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Posted: 9:54 PM- Back when he was a star at Orem's Timpanogos High and being recruited by colleges all over the country, 6-foot-5 Paul Kruger chose the University of Utah partly because coaches there promised him he could play quarterback. Most of the others wanted him to play linebacker, tight end or defensive end.

So, naturally, after redshirting his first year and serving a two-year LDS Church mission to Independence, Mo., Kruger has found his niche with the Utes - playing defensive end.

"Not a common transition, but he has made it seamlessly," said coach Kyle Whittingham.

Heading into Saturday's rivalry game with Utah State, Kruger has been one of the bright spots on defense for the 1-3 Utes.

In his first collegiate start, against UCLA, he intercepted a Ben Olson pass. In last week's 27-0 debacle at UNLV, he led the team with eight tackles. He also had a tackle for a loss and his first career pass breakup.

Does Kruger wish he were still a quarterback?

"Actually, no," he said. "I feel really comfortable at defensive end. I have grown to love the position. It is a spot where you can fly around and make plays and be aggressive. That's my personality, to go hard and be a physical guy."

Kruger weighed 225 pounds when then-coach Urban Meyer brought him to Utah in 2004 to play quarterback. But after "about 36 hours," according to Whittingham, who was the defensive coordinator back then, the decision was made - with Kruger's blessing - to switch him to defensive line.

"Just after I got here, an opportunity opened up at D-end," Kruger said. "I played the position in high school on third-down [passing] situations and I've always felt comfortable there. I loved the [defensive] coaching staff, especially Gary Andersen and his philosophy, so it was an easy decision for me."

Despite not starting Utah's first two games, Kruger leads the linemen and is tied for second on the team with 24 tackles. There's probably not another player wearing a No. 11 jersey in the country with as many takedowns.

The son of former Oregon State athletes - his father played football and his mother ran track - acknowledges that it is a strange number for a defensive lineman, but he stuck with the number he has worn since high school when he made the switch to defense.

After all, he jokes, he still has quarterback looks.

Andersen, now the Utes' defensive coordinator, said Kruger is as bright as most quarterbacks, too.

"He is a very talented young man who focuses so well and applies what we teach him over to the football field, which is important because you're talking about a kid that is in foreign territory with his past experience as a quarterback," Andersen said. "He is still learning where he fits into [our] scheme, but he's a guy who wants to make plays."

Kruger's success might bring another subtle benefit to the Utes. His younger brother, David, is a senior defensive end at Timpanogos and one of the most sought-after prep players in the state. Utah, BYU, Colorado and California have offered the star player, but it is likely it will come down to a classic Utah vs. BYU battle for his services.

"I'm actually not [recruiting him] to come here," Paul Kruger said. "I want him to make his own decisions and be happy about where he signs. I will counsel him on what to look for and stuff like that, but ultimately I want it to be his decision."

Maybe he could play quarterback. Utah appears set at defensive end.