DE Joe Kruger leaving Utah early for NFL

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For the seventh time (officially) since late November, an underclassman defensive lineman has left eligibility on the table for a shot in the professional ranks.

The latest to do the early deed is Joe Kruger, the Utah defensive end who announced Wednesday afternoon that he will not return to the Utes in 2013 and will instead make himself available for the April NFL draft.  The 6-7, 280-pound junior played in 37-of-38 games from 2010-12 with 14 starts. He started seven of the 11 games in which he played this season.

He led the team with six sacks in 2012.

“Joe and his family spent a lot of time making this decision and concluded that it’s in Joe’s best interest to forego his senior year of eligibility and enter the draft,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement. “Joe certainly has NFL potential and we wish him the best as he takes his game to the next level. The Kruger name has been synonymous with Utah football for a lot of years and we are very appreciative for all they have done for our program.”

Kruger’s brother Paul Kruger is a former Utes player and current Baltimore Raven.  He had another brother, Dave, who finished this past fall as a four-year starting defensive tackle.

Below is Kruger’s rather lengthy statement on leaving the Utes a year early:

“I am releasing this statement after much prayer, consideration and evaluation with my family in announcing that I have decided to forgo my final year of eligibility and enter the 2013 NFL draft.

“These past three years, I have been honored to be a part of a very special group of teammates and coaches at the University of Utah. I have cherished what has been my amazing college experience. The privilege to play under someone as great as Coach Kyle Whittingham has been a tremendous opportunity. The experience of playing together with my brother Dave has been priceless. Now it is my journey to pursue a lifelong dream, which is to become a professional football player in the National Football League.

“This decision is one of the toughest that I have ever had to make. As I reflect on the University of Utah, my teammates, all of my coaches, the football staff, and most importantly the Utah fans, I am filled with humility and deep gratitude. These past years at Utah have been a tremendous learning and growing experience for me. I want to thank everyone at the University and all the Utes everywhere for their support.

“It is my hope in making this decision that the fans, coaches, teammates, and the Utah athletic department will continue to support me and my family as I take this next step in attaining my goals.

“My heart belongs to Utah and I wish continued prosperity and success to my Utah Utes!”

Alabama’s Anderson repeats as Bronko Nagurski award winner

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Alabama outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. has become the second two-time winner of the Bronko Nagurski Award given to the nation’s top collegiate defensive player.

Anderson was presented the award on Monday night by the Charlotte Touchdown Club.

The 6-foot-4, 243-pound Anderson had 10 sacks for the No. 5-ranked Crimson Tide this season. He also won the award last year after recording 17 1/2 sacks.

Anderson, a junior, had two sacks in Alabama’s regular-season win finale against rival Auburn and had his first touchdown when he returned an interception 25 yards against Louisiana-Monroe.

Anderson joins former Northwestern linebacker Pat Fitzgerald as the only two-time winner of the award. Fitzgerald won the award in 1995 and 1996 and later went on to become the head coach at Northwestern.

It’s unclear if Anderson will enter the NFL draft or return to Alabama next season.

FSU standout QB Jordan Travis returning for senior season

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis, the fourth player in school history to account for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in a single season, is staying in school for his senior year.

Travis made the announcement Monday, the same day hundreds of players across the nation entered the NCAA transfer portal or declared for the NFL draft. Travis chose a different path and could be an early favorite in next year’s Heisman Trophy race.

“So many memories have been made on this field and we’re not done yet,” Travis said in a highlight video posted on social media. “See y’all in 2023.”

A fourth-year junior, Travis has 22 touchdown passes to go along with seven rushing scores, one receiving and just four interceptions. He has led the 13th-ranked Seminoles (9-3) to five consecutive wins as they prepare to play Oklahoma (6-6) in the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 29 in Orlando.

Travis joined FSU’s three Heisman Trophy winners – Charlie Ward in 1993, Chris Weinke in 2000 and Jameis Winston in 2013 – to account for 3,000 yards and 30 TDs in a season. He is one of six QBs in Power Five conferences with at least 20 TD passes and four or fewer interceptions.