Panthers officially sign Lotulelei, Kugbila, Klein and Barner

/* From Press Release */

The Carolina Panthers have signed 2013 first-round draft choice (14th overall) defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and fourth-round choice (108th overall) guard Edmund Kugbila, fifth-round draft choice (148th overall) linebacker A.J. Klein and sixth-round draft choice (182nd overall) running back Kenjon Barner, the team announced Thursday. All five of the team’s draft choices have now signed.

“Star gives us an impactful three-down defensive lineman and Edmund has a lot of natural ability and upside that we will work to develop,” general manager Dave Gettleman said. “We look forward to seeing both players contribute to the team.”

Lotulelei played in 38 games with 28 starts in three seasons at the University of Utah, earning first-team All-America and first-team All-Pac-12 conference honors as a senior in 2012 after posting a team-leading 11 tackles for loss to go along with five sacks. As a junior in 2011, Lotulelei earned the Morris Trophy, awarded to the best defensive lineman in the Pac-12 Conference. He finished his career at Utah with 107 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and five passes defensed.


Kugbila played in 45 games with 32 starts at Division II Valdosta State. He made 22 starts at right guard and 10 at right tackle, finishing his career with 187 knockdown blocks. He did not allow a sack in his final two seasons at Valdosta State after shifting to right guard as a junior. In his final season at Valdosta State, Kugbila led all NCAA Division II blockers with a 93.8 percent grade for blocking consistency and helped the Blazers win the NCAA Division II national championship.

“We are thrilled to have all of our draft choices under contract,” general manager Dave Gettleman said. “A.J.’s versatility is very appealing to us. He has played all three linebacker positions and he will have a chance to help us on special teams. Kenjon has great speed and was a dynamic player on offense and special teams at Oregon.”

A three-time All-Big 12 Conference choice, Klein started 38 career games at Iowa State – 21 at middle linebacker, 12 at strongside linebacker and five at weakside linebacker – and produced at least 110 tackles in each of his three seasons as a starter. As a senior in 2012, Klein led the Cyclones for the second consecutive season with 117 tackles. In his junior season, he was named co-Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year with current Panthers and former Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander.

Barner ranks second in University of Oregon history with 3,623 rushing yards and 5,848 all-purpose yards, and is tied for second with 41 rushing touchdowns. In his final season at Oregon, Barner was a first-team All-American and finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year and Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back, after compiling 1,767 rushing yards, the second most in school history. As a freshman in 2009, Barner set a school record with 1,020 kickoff return yards on 41 returns, scoring a touchdown on a 100-yard return.

The Panthers also waived/injured tight end Logan Brock and claimed linebacker Ryan Rau off waivers from Cleveland on Wednesday.