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Utah football: A Star is born — Lotulelei’s NFL stock soars

One mock draft has defensive star No. 1 overall; others have him in top 10.

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"Part of my job is to make sure we are never satisfied," Sitake said. "We can’t complain about last year, but we hope he can step it up even more this year. He had a huge impact last year because he had a lot of guys blocking him, but he didn’t make that many actual plays. That is where we want him to step it up, get some more sacks and more tackles."

Scouts also want to see more. Even though he’s a strong candidate to be a first-round pick, Lotulelei can help himself by improving his pass rush, said one scout.

At a glance

Star Lotulelei file

Heightt/Weight » 6-4/325

Class » Senior

Position » Defensive tackle

Hometown » South Jordan

Noteworthy » All-America candidate was a first-team All-Pac-12 pick in 2011. … Won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12’s best defensive lineman in 2011. … Most valuable lineman of the Sun Bowl. … Started all 13 games at defensive tackle. … Played for Snow College in 2008, then took 2009 off before joining the Utes. … Helped Bingham win the state title and go 14-0 in 2007.

Star’s stats

Season G/GS UT AT TFL Sacks

2010 13/3 7 14 2.5 0

2011 13/13 16 28 9.0 1.5

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"He has a lot of natural ability and a big physical presence, but if he can be more of a pass rusher and run stopper, his stock will only go up from there," the scout said. "I always think guys should stay in school, and he can benefit from another year to keep improving."

Such critical views might miff some players who have bought into the hype surrounding them, but not Lotulelei.

He understands why he is being pushed. He has his own motivations, too.

A guy who once didn’t care about his grades is intent to leave Utah not only as a high draft pick, but also as one with a degree. His father recently earned a doctorate in accounting from BYU and now Lotulelei wants his degree to set a standard for his kids too, on and off the field.

"I want to be an example for my kids as they grow up," he said.

Star’s rise

The hype is already building around Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Here is a sample of where he is projected to go in the 2013 NFL Draft by various blogs and news organizations.

ESPN » No. 1, Indianapolis

The Gritz Blitz » No. 8, Dallas

CBS Sports » No. 2, Minnesota

Bleacher Report » No. 7, Washington

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