Utah football’s T.J. Pledger to enter NFL draft, but will play in Rose Bowl

Pledger has rushed for 671 yards and six touchdowns on just 97 carries in 2021

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes Junior running back TJ Pledger (5) joins in the University of Utah's senior day festivities before the Utes host the University of Colorado on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

University of Utah running back T.J. Pledger announced on social media Thursday afternoon that he intends to enter the 2022 NFL Draft after playing in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day against Ohio State.

A fourth-year junior who transferred to Utah after three seasons at Oklahoma, Pledger has played in all 13 games for the Pac-12-champion Utes, sitting at 671 yards and six touchdowns on just 97 carries. Pledger has four 100-yard games on the season, including a 25-carry, 119-yard, two-touchdown performance in a Nov. 13 win at Arizona when Utah’s leading rusher, Tavion Thomas, was unavailable.

Pledger is one of a handful of Utah underclassmen expected to leave school early for the NFL draft. Fifth-year All-American junior linebacker Devin Lloyd has already accepted a Senior Bowl invitation, while All-Pac-12 lineman Nick Ford is also expected to not use his final season of eligibility in 2022.

Pledger, Ford and Lloyd were among the nine underclassmen to take part in Senior Day festivities at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Nov. 26 before a win over Colorado.