To say the 2020 college football season was a struggle for Utah State is somewhat of an understatement, but that did not deter standout all-purpose player Ike Larsen from staying true to his commitment.
The Sky View senior was one of four players who finalized their commitment with USU on Wednesday as part of the NCAA’s early signing period. The other three future Aggies initially signed with the program before serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
New USU head coach Blake Anderson will announce the rest of his 2021 signing class on Feb. 3.
“(Anderson and I) talked a couple of days ago for the first time and we’ve been staying in touch,” said Larsen, who verbally committed to the Aggies last November. “But I like him. He seems like a great guy. He’s straightforward, so that’s good. I feel like (we) can build a good relationship with each other.”
Larsen did admit to having some reservations about sticking with his commitment “when stuff was going sideways a little bit, but then I really thought about my decisions and where I want to be and play, and I picked Utah State.”
Officially accepting a scholarship offer and becoming an Aggie was a gratifying moment for Larsen, who earned first-team all-state honors this past season for the 4A state champion Bobcats.
“I felt really good being able to sign on that line this morning at 7 a.m., 7:01,” Larsen said. “But, you know, it doesn’t end here. I’m excited to get up there, keep working to get better and win games.”
The son of Bret and JoAnn Larsen was arguably the most versatile athlete at the 4A level this fall. The speedster was a game-changer on offense, defense and special teams.
No. 6 hauled in 24 receptions for 565 yards and five touchdowns and was also a bona fide scoring threat on fly sweeps. In the 4A title game against Pine View, Larsen turned on the jets en route to a 67-yard sprint to paydirt. Larsen chipped in with 197 yards and four TDs on 19 rushing attempts.
As a defensive back, the hard-hitting 5-foot-11, 170-pounder contributed with 55 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Larsen had pick-sixes against a trio of foes this season in Stansbury (15 yards), Green Canyon (96) and Cedar (98).
The Smithfield resident flat out gave opponents nightmares on special teams as he blocked a whopping nine kicks and scooped up a blocked field goal by teammate Walter Collins and returned it 58 yards to the house in the first of two games against rival Ridgeline. Larsen also brought back a punt return for a score against Bear River.
In Larsen’s lone season at Sky View, the Bobcats went 13-0 and defended their region and state championships.
“It was awesome,” Larsen said. “I got to go play with all my little league friends that I’ve been wanting to play with for my whole life, and we won a state championship and a region championship, and it was fun and everyone was awesome, so I really enjoyed it a lot.”
Prior to moving to Smithfield, Larsen excelled in his two seasons as a starter at Logan High. As a junior, he caught 35 passes for 548 yards and six TDs, recorded 62 tackles, picked off seven passes, forced three fumbles and recovered two more. The 3-star recruit also had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. As a sophomore, Larsen finished with 42 tackles and five INTs for the Grizzlies.
Larsen is also a gifted basketball player and track & field athlete. As a junior, he was one of 4A’s top performers in the 300-meter hurdles. Additionally, Larsen led Logan’s basketball team in rebounds (5.2 per game), assists (2.7 pg), steals (2.5 pg) and blocks (0.6 pg) during the 2019-20 campaign, plus was the team’s second-leading scorer (10.6 ppg).
Anderson told Larsen he envisions the three-sport athlete playing safety in college, and “he said that I can help out a lot with special teams.”
OTHER FUTURE AGGIES
The three returned missionaries who inked with the Aggies are former East High teammates Seni Tuiaki and Johnson Hansen, and former Weber High star Sione Moa. All three athletes will enroll for the upcoming spring semester.
Hansen, a 6-3, 270-pound defensive lineman, sparkled as a senior for the Leopards. The 3-star recruit racked up 117 tackles and 15.5 sacks for East, which lost to Bingham in the 6A state title game his senior season (2017). Hansen was a first-team all-region and honorable mention all-state selection as a senior.
Tuiaki, a 6-2, 250-pound D-lineman, was limited to six games as a senior. The 3-star recruit tallied 24 tackles and one sack in those contests. Tuiaki also competed on East’s wrestling program and played club rugby and volleyball while in high school.
Like Hansen, Moa garnered first-team all-region and honorable mention all-state accolades as a prep senior. The 3-star recruit started on both sides of the ball for Weber. Moa, who was recruited by the Aggies as a linebacker, gained 370 yards and scored twice on 27 receptions, and recorded 58 tackles and 6.0 sacks — one in six different games.
The 6-1, 210-pounder accumulated more than 1,000 receiving yards during his high school career, and also showcased his talents for the Warriors in basketball and track & field.
OTHER LOCAL SIGNEES
In addition to Larsen, three other Cache Valley players officially accepted scholarship offers by signing with Division I programs on Wednesday. Ridgeline’s Jovesa Damuni inked with BYU, Logan’s Jaylen Sargent finalized his commitment with Wyoming and Mountain Crest’s Emilio Veater put pen to paper with Eastern Washington.
As a senior, the 6-0, 180-pound Damuni snared 44 receptions for 806 yards and seven touchdowns, and also contributed with 15 solo tackles as a defensive back. Damuni was recruited by the Cougars as an athlete. His first cousin, Timpview High product Raider Damuni, also signed with BYU on Wednesday.
Like Damuni, Sargent was a first-team all-state honoree this past season. The 6-2, 170-pounder caught 60 passes for 886 yards and 11 touchdowns, plus finished with 37 tackles, 3.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one INT. Sargent, an explosive long jumper for Logan’s track & field program, was recruited by the Cowboys as a wide receiver.
Veater started on both sides of the ball as a senior for the Mustangs. Statistics were available for seven of those games, and the 6-1, 195-pounder was credited with 35 tackles, 3.0 sacks and one INT, plus 273 yards rushing and a pair of TDs. Veater was recruited by the Eagles as a linebacker.
“Emilio is undersized now, but we won’t be for very long,” EWU coach Aaron Best said in a press release. “He’ll be a very athletic linebacker. ... He’s done a lot of studying about our program and school, and he’s authentically excited. He has an infectious smile and has a huge career in front of him. He has some length, but we’ll get some more weight on him. ... We aren’t going to ask him to play early, so he has time to add that weight. When he does, he’ll make the most of it.”
Damuni, Sargent and Veater will be featured more prominently in stories that will run in future editions of The Herald Journal.
The Mountain West released its all-conference teams Tuesday and eight Aggies were honorable mention honorees. Those eight USU players are seniors Demytrick Ali’ifua (offensive line), Shaq Bond (safety), Nick Heninger (DL/LB), Marcus Moore (DL), Savon Scarver (kickoff returner), sophomores Karter Shaw (OL) and AJ Vongphachanh (LB) and freshman Stephen Kotsanlee (punter).
The speciality awards went to Nevada quarterback Carson Strong (Offensive Player of the Year), San Jose State D-lineman Cade Hall (Defensive POTY), Boise State return specialist Avery Williams (Special Teams POTY) and UNLV wideout Kyle Williams (Freshman of the Year). SJSU’s Brent Brennan is the Coach of the Year.
Boise State led the way with 17 all-MW selections, followed by Nevada (16), San Diego State (16), Colorado State (12), SJSU (11), Fresno State (10), USU (8), Hawaii (7), Wyoming (7), New Mexico (6), Air Force (5) and UNLV (1).