|Original Story: here|
|Zach Larsen, center on the Southern Utah|
football team, poses for a photo after Friday's
practice, Mar. 25, 2016. Photo: Jordan Allred
The door of opportunity has swung wide open for freshman center Zach Larsen.
When offensive linemen Keyan Norman and Andrew Eide opted to finish their college careers at BYU, the T-Birds were left with some pretty big holes to fill up front.
And with his size, his mind and his pedigree, SUU coaches are already getting excited about what he is bringing to the Thunderbirds' offensive line.
“I think he's going to be an awesome player,” offensive coordinator Justin Walterscheid said. “He's going to (be) a special, special guy.”
Larsen is going through his first spring ball since he returned from his LDS mission in, but it would be hard to tell that he is readjusting to the football life. He has turned heads early and often, benching a team-high 385 pounds and besting upperclassman time and time again during one-on-one drills.
“I don’t base myself worth on how many times I can bench press 225, but I was quite amazed,” left tackle Mark Evans said of Larsen. “Myself, coming off an LDS mission, I was nowhere near as strong as he is, so of course I’m going to be a little jealous of his strength.”
Larsen is getting tasked to learn a whole new position. He was recruited to be on the defensive side of the ball, and while he played on the offensive line in high school, it was never at center. So when he found out a couple weeks ago he was moving to middle of the offensive line, it was foreign territory, but he is quickly adjusting.
“I sat in on the offensive line meeting the other day, and he asked some really good questions, and so he’s trying to learn,” head coach Demario Warren said. “He’s asking the right type of questions, too. Obviously, he’s not all the way there yet, but he’s got the right mindset and he’s getting better.”
Both coaches and players raved about not just the body, but also the mind of Larsen. And they have little doubt he will soon pick up the nuances of being a center. Larsen admitted to there being a learning curve, one which he is trying to accelerate by staying late after practice working on snaps with quarterbacks and getting the timing down.
“It’s pretty different,” Larsen said. “Getting that snap down is a little hard. When you take steps with it, you got to adjust the snap, but it’s coming along pretty good.”
Larsen also has genetics on his side. Two of his older brothers, Cody and Tyler, have spent time on NFL training camp rosters. Cody played defensive tackle at Southern Utah before signing as an undrafted free agent with the , and later with the . Tyler, who attended Utah State, most recently signed a futures contract with the in January.
It's clear Zach has football running through his veins.
“We’ve had in the program before, so we are at ease with Zach,” Warren said. “We know the pedigree that family has, so it’s going to be an exciting season for him.”
Said Evans: “I know his older brother, Cody, just an extremely large individual. They are all buff and scary and extremely huge, so he probably's got some genes going for him.”
While Larsen still has a long way to go to becoming the player his teammates and coaches hope he will one day be, his presence has helped ease the sting of losing Eide and Norman — if only just a little.
Evans said that Edie and Norman were two of his best friends on the team, and that they first mentioned they were talking to BYU a couple months ago. So he wasn’t super surprised when they left for Provo, but it still hurt. He said, though, that going through that has made the offensive line more united and forced each individual player to get better.
“It has really allowed a lot of young guys to step up,” Evans said. “It has allowed players to step into leadership roles and it really allowed the offensive line, specifically, to come closer together as a unit. We were forced to buckle down and improve.”
The departures left voids and Larsen is determined to help fill them.
“I think I’ve put forth the effort and I’ve made a mark,” Larsen said. “And I’m ready to be an anchor on that O-line.”
Follow on Twitter, @millerjryan.