The recruits from head coach Gary Andersen’s time at Utah State are still aging out of the program. One of his best is center Tyler Larsen, who has been the starter since he arrived. A knee injury ended his true freshman season two games in resulting in a medical redshirt, but starting from his redshirt freshman year on, he has been their pivot and will leave with an incredible amount of playing experience.
Larsen has a good understanding of the position, knows how to get in position, use good angles, and can be an effective blocker at the second level. He is an impressive pass blocker when it comes to working laterally, but can occasionally get surprised and overwhelmed by pure power. The biggest issue with Larsen is his effort. Larsen is a player who looks to do the absolute minimum on plays and the second he finishes his job, he simply stops playing rather than looking to continue to help with the play. There are examples of Larsen stopping far too early and giving up plays because he simply stopped trying.
Larsen has the ability to be a good center in the NFL despite some technical issues. The effort questions and the fact he does not play to anywhere near the whistle are going to be a problem for some teams during the draft process and there will be coaches who simply think he is lazy and may pass on him as a result. On what he can bring to a team, he could potentially be a top 100 pick with the possibility of being a starting center in the NFL, but the questions with effort and putting in the bare minimum so often could have a huge impact on his draft stock and make him a third day pick with the potential to fall out of the draft entirely depending on how he addresses it. In interviews, selling teams on the idea that he loves football is going to be incredibly difficult for a player like Larsen. Figuring out what motivates him is going to be key in determining how far he can go in the NFL.
Vitals & Build
Larsen is listed at 6’4” 312lbs with a decent build for the position. He has the ability to move well laterally, shows good overall athletic ability and fluidity to be able to have solid range as a blocker. His power is relatively average and could stand to gain more strength. In terms of motor and overall effort, Larsen leaves a lot to be desired. He has the potential to continue filling out and become a good physical specimen for the center position in the NFL.
In terms of sheer athletic ability, Larsen has more than enough to be a great center. He has shown he can do everything that could be asked of the position to moving well and flowing to block opponents in space in pass protection. Larsen can get to the second level with relative ease and even seems to be slow and deliberate in how he approaches it. He has also shown he can get out and pull at times. Larsen does all of this and looks relatively good and comfortable as an athlete.
Larsen has the ability to fire off of the ball and get some push or at least stalemate an opponent in the running game. He has shown the ability to turn and seal opponents off and can work his feet to eliminate them from making the play on the ball carrier. Larsen has also showed that he has the athletic ability to pull and get out in front of running plays as a blocker.
There are times where Larsen will get himself in trouble and it is unclear if this is his own habit or if part of the Aggies’ scheme when it comes to shotgun. There are times when they are able to set the play, he can go from having his head down, get it in position, set up and run the play. There are also situations where he will snap with his head down and be at a disadvantage, though potentially catch the defense by surprise when he snaps the ball.
When he is able to get his head up and see what is coming, be able to punch quickly and halt the opponent. He has more trouble when his head down, he snaps and has to pick it up and punch at the same time. The result is he often ends up late with the opponent able to get their hands on him first with the potential to catch him in a bad position.
Larsen has the ability to be a good blocker but the effort is not there consistently. He rarely finishes a block and looks to dominate an opponent. As soon as the ball carrier is through the hole, he is often checking out and waiting for the next snap rather than looking to send a message to his opponent or looking for an opportunity to help and further the play.
The first thing that stands out is how well Larsen can slide to protect. He is smooth and can cover a lot of ground laterally as a pass blocker. Larsen has also displayed the ability to react to an assortment of athletic pass rush moves well without panicking or having a problem, provided his feet are under him. There are times when he will take on a block at an awkward angle and just reach without bringing his feet which enables them to work through and get into the backfield.
When it comes to power, Larsen is a little inconsistent. It all comes down to his base and how low he is playing. When he is able to establish leverage and get an anchor, he can be difficult to move and when he does, he can adjust and re-anchor to win the play without much trouble. There are times when Larsen will get tall and gets caught under his pads and can get driven back into the backfield. He has shown the ability to adjust and regain his leverage and win the down, but there are examples of relatively average players in terms of strength getting the best of him. That is concerning when it comes to projecting him to the NFL.
Occasionally, Larsen will fail to see where pressure is coming from in a wide aligned defensive line and fails to cover the correct guard and help, but those are few and far between. For the most part, Larsen does diagnose and react well in situations when he sees a threat.
Again, when it comes to effort, Larsen tends to as little as possible and even when it comes to the quarterback just rolling out, he will stop playing. There are a few situations where this has backfired and put the play in significant danger by just not playing to the whistle.
The ability is there for Larsen. He just needs to play consistently, both in terms of his technique and his effort. With more power, he could be an extremely effective pass blocker if he simply wants to be.
Larsen has good hand use and can really fluster opponents when he can get a punch on them and keep working to control them. There is that question in regards to whether snapping with head down in certain situations is designed or his own choice. When he can see what is coming and does not need to get his head up and then his hands, he gets a quick punch and is able to avoid getting caught at a disadvantage.
Larsen does a good job of using his hands to take away angles from the opponent provided his feet are under him. He can really do a good job when it comes to making sure he can get his hands on the opponent and doing it so he can control the opponent and ultimately work to get them where he wants them to go.
Larsen has great feet. He has nice short, choppy steps in pass protection and can slide effectively. The only thing he needs to avoid is just stopping his feet and making sure they are always under him and always working to get position. When he does that, he is tough to beat in pass protection.
Larsen has also displayed effective footwork in run blocking. He is able to work to seal opponents off from the play, he can pull and he can get to the second level pretty easily. When it comes to the second level, Larsen does not go full speed and it seems to be deliberate on his part. The goal seems to be maintaining his body control and not getting caught out of control in space. Despite the fact he is not going full speed, he is able to get down the field and in position well to land the block.
Larsen may be best suited to play in a zone blocking scheme or something that would take advantage of his athletic ability. With added strength, Larsen could be an effective pivot in a power scheme, but he is more ready to contribute in a more athletic scheme. In a zone blocking scheme, Larsen has the potential to come in and start, but might be best served to sit and learn for a year. It might also benefit him to have to fight to earn a job. He has not really had to worry about his job his entire collegiate career while at Utah State and having to compete and earn a starting job could drive him to give more effort and make him a better competitor.
In so many ways, Larsen resembles Rodney Hudson of the Kansas City Chiefs. Hudson was an extremely athletic center at Florida State and did everything so well in terms of his technique. Hudson was really undersized and came into the NFL needing to add more power. As a result, Hudson played his heart out on every single snap he had. He had to in order to survive both in college and in the NFL. This is the key difference between he and Larsen. Hudson plays every snap like it’s his last which is why he has been successful for the Chiefs. Larsen could be everything that Hudson is and potentially be better, but he has to find the fire that Hudson brings to the game to achieve that level of success.
Larsen brings so much to the table that NFL teams will like. He has a significant amount of experience playing the position. Little will surprise him when it comes to the center position. Larsen also has great athletic ability and range to play the position in addition to understanding the technical aspects of his position. Larsen needs to get more powerful as he goes to the NFL, but the bigger question with Larsen comes down to how badly he wants to be good and how much effort he puts into being a great player. He has rarely showed the willingness to finish opponents or even plays to the whistle and appears to look to stop playing and move onto the next one the second he has done what he envisions is his job for a given play. Perhaps Larsen just needs to be challenged or maybe he just does not love the game of football the way a lot of players do. This is something that NFL teams will have to get answered when it comes to interviews. Larsen has the ability to be a top 100 pick and potentially start depending on the team that selects him, but depending on how he answers questions about his effort and passion for the game, Larsen appears more likely to go on day three with the possibility of going undrafted if he really bombs in interviews.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com