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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Utah lineman Siliga going pro

Utah's defense, which already was faced with the task of replacing five players who were regulars in the starting rotation, now has the unpleasant task of replacing two underclassmen who are bolting for the NFL.

Utah defensive tackle Sealver Siliga announced Wednesday he is turning pro, joining corner Brandon Burton in heading for the NFL a year early.

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Siliga said in a statement he felt this was the best time for him physically and mentally to turn pro.

"This was not an easy decision or one in which I made without a lot of thought and prayer," he said in the statement, in which he also thanked the coaching staff. "As much as I look forward to my professional career, I look forward to continuing being a member of the Utes family."

Siliga is a two-time honorable mention all-conference tackle and has played in 37 of 39 games with 21 starts since he was a freshman. He finished the 2010 season with 28.5 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

While Burton is projected as anywhere from a late first-round to third-round pick, Siliga is unlikely to get drafted according to some who have rated him.

Often Utah coach Kyle Whittingham comments on players who leave early, wishing them luck and so forth. However, he isn't commenting on Siliga, which you can read as a statement in itself that he isn't too happy or supportive of Siliga's decision.

The seniors the Utes lose are left end Junior Tui'one, right end Christian Cox, linebacker Chad Manis, corner Lamar Chapman and safety Justin Taplin-Ross.

The cupboard isn't totally bare though, the Utes have a promising nose tackle in Star Lotulelei and a rising star in Brian Blechen, a safety who will be moved to linebacker next year if all goes as planned.

Hopefully left end Derrick Shelby will be able to have a stronger year too with another offseason to rehab his knee and the Utes also get Nai Fotu back, a hard-hitting player who missed the season with a knee injury.


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