Logan • The beginning of the football season may have been a bit of a blow for Logan-area fans wanting to see the local boys on Utah State.
A couple of returning starters for the Aggies, linebackers Derek Larsen from Logan High and Alex Huerta from Mountain Crest, slid off the top lines on the depth chart in favor of junior college transfers.
And only days away from the season opener.
But as seems to be the custom, the Cache Valley natives have made their presence felt for Utah State as the campaign has reached the midway point.
Gaje Ferguson, a walk-on from Mountain Crest, is second on the team in tackles. Sophomore Jacoby Wildman from Logan gradually has asserted himself as a starter at defensive end.
And Larsen still is a team captain as he and Huerta have taken on more of a support role in the defensive rotation.
Wyoming at Utah State
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
The resiliency of the local players, like former Logan quarterback D.J. Nelson, who blocked and returned a punt for a touchdown last week, is no surprise to those who knew them in high school.
“When you’re around them like we are, you kind of know what the kind of kids they are,” said Pleasant Grove coach Mark Wootton, who coached Ferguson and Huerta at Mountain Crest. “I texted Gage after the BYU game and said, ‘Hey, nice job.’ His text back, this is after he had nine tackles, was that he played pretty average.”
Aggies coach Matt Wells said: “You have 11 guys that are Cache Valley players that are playing for not just their home state, but their hometown team, Utah State. I think almost all those guys I’ve heard say, ‘I dreamed of playing at Utah State,’ or ‘I grew up wanting to play at Utah State.’”
Not that it’s always been an easy road to get there, however.
Only one of Wootton’s Mountain Crest players was offered a scholarship in his 12 years at the Hyrum school. He also noted that also was the case for other state colleges in addition to Utah State.
AGGIES FROM CACHE VALLEY
The players from Cache Valley high schools listed on the Utah State roster.
Player • Position • High school
Chasen Anderson • Linebacker • Logan
Alex Huerta • Linebacker • Mountain Crest
Chad Artist • Wide receiver • Logan
D.J. Nelson • Quarterback • Logan
Gaje Ferguson • Defensive back • Mountain Crest
Chase Nelson • Safety • Logan
Derek Larsen • Linebacker • Logan
Taylor Compton • Wide receiver • Logan
Jacoby Wildman • Defensive end • Logan
Caden Anderson • Defensive end • Logan
Jake Pitcher • Defensive end • Sky View
So Ferguson, who missed his senior year of high school to injury, enrolled at Snow College and eventually walked on to the Aggies before earning a scholarship.
“I got put on this January, and I still remember the feeling,” Ferguson said. “It was like a whole body high for weeks or a month. I walked on, and I was here for two years before I got a scholarship. I was deemed ineligible when I got here. I was hoping to play right away and make some special teams and make an impact to get my name out there.”
Nelson, like Ferguson, has opted to play special teams while he waits for a chance at quarterback. Nelson was named the Mountain West Conference special teams player of the week after his block against Colorado State. He also blocked a punt against Wake Forest.
“I approached coach Wells and coach [Mark] Tommerdahl, our special teams coordinator, and said I wanted to run down there on kickoffs,” Nelson said. “I got a spot on kickoffs that led to a spot on blocks and then a spot on kickoff returns. It’s been fun to help my team any way I can.”
“I grew up with all these guys, and I played on teams with Derek Larsen and D.J. Nelson all through high school,” said Wildman, who had seven tackles against Colorado State last week. “I love them to death, and they all have a competitive will and desire that I don’t see much in a lot of other people.
“I don’t know if that is just me being biased, but I love them to death and they are great players. We pride ourselves in work ethic and we give it our all.”