Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tennessee Titans rookie Karl Klug gains attention on defense

Titans rookie defensive tackle Karl Klug (97) chases Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) out of the pocket.

Klug gains notice with speed, attitude

By John Glennon

August 15, 2011

One point of emphasis for the Titans during the offseason was getting bigger and beefier on the interior of the defensive line.

To wit: They signed 6-foot-2, 325-pound Shaun Smith, drafted a pair of 300-pounders in Jurrell Casey and Zach Clayton, and nodded in approval as veteran Jovan Haye bulked up to 312 pounds.

So who’s been one of the biggest training-camp standouts so far?

It’s rookie defensive tackle Karl Klug
(pronounced KLOOG), a relative lightweight at 275 pounds. The fifth-round pick has earned a significant number of first-team reps and was a starter alongside Haye last Saturday in the preseason opener against the Vikings.

“He may be relatively light, but he’s a very strong young man and he understands leverage,” Titans defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said. “You do want big people. But you can have big people that don’t understand leverage. He understands leverage and he understands how to play in there.”

Say this about Klug: He’s used to playing against bigger bodies.

When he arrived at the University of Iowa, the Caledonia, Minn., native weighed all of 207 pounds. He gradually put on weight, but even as a junior he was going head-to-head with Big Ten linemen while checking in at 255 pounds.

“He’s always been that kind of guy — never been a monster,” Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker said. “But he’s strong and he’s a good athlete. He can get his body in unique positions where you and I would probably fall down. He keeps his balance and keeps going.”

Said Klug: “I just try to use my quickness, my first step. I try to engage (offensive linemen) before they can engage with me. If they get to me first, I’m pretty much screwed.”

At Iowa, Klug played alongside two other NFL draft picks — first-rounder Adrian Clayborn and fourth-rounder Christian Ballard — and the Titans weren’t sure if his abilities would translate to the NFL.

Coach Mike Munchak has been impressed with what he’s seen so far, however, and cited two examples of Klug’s best work against the Vikings.

“You will be watching a play and think he is blocked, and then he is scrapping and the next thing you know he works down the line of scrimmage,” Munchak said. “The first play of the game, he is being double-teamed, the ball bounces to the outside and he is the guy that makes the tackle.

“On that third-and-one (stop in the first quarter), two guys blocked him and he finds a way to split them. … He is one of those guys that is slippery. You can’t get a great shot at him.”

Klug said he’s heard those words before, from Iowa coaches and Iowa offensive linemen.

He figures his background as a high-school wrestler probably helps, giving him a feel for leverage and how to use opponents’ momentum against them.

As for his frequent first-team appearances so far in camp, Klug said he’s just trying to keep everything in perspective.

“It’s a good feeling to run with the ones, but right now it really doesn’t matter,” he said.

“Wait until the regular season. Right now, just whatever reps I can get, I want to make the most of them.”

Parker said that kind of attitude is just what he’d expect to hear from a small-town kid like Klug, whose hometown bills itself as both “The Wild Turkey Capital of Minnesota” and “The Heart of Quilt Country.”

“He’s just a down-to-earth, good guy,” Parker said. “He’s a farm kid that enjoys playing football. I’m sure he’s having the time of his life.”

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