Utah State sending school-record four football players to NFL Combine

Utah State safety Maurice Alexander, left, intercepts a pass intended for San Jose State wide receiver Jabari Carr during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State is sending a school-record four former football players to the 2014 NFL Combine, which will begin on Saturday, February 22 in Indianapolis, Ind. The combine will run through Tuesday, Feb. 25. Those Aggies scheduled to attend this year’s NFL Combine include Maurice Alexander, Tyler Larsen, Nevin Lawson and D.J. Tialavea.

In all 324 players were invited to this year’s NFL Combine, including 56 defensive backs, 11 offensive centers and 19 tight ends.

The 2014 Scouting Combine is the annual job fair for prospective new NFL players. For six days at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, players are put through a series of drills, tests and interviews with more than 600 NFL personnel including head coaches, general managers and scouts. The 2014 NFL Draft is slated for May 8-10.

Beginning Saturday, Feb. 22, the NFL Network (Comcast Ch. 270, Dish Network Ch. 154, DirecTV Ch. 212) and NFL.com will broadcast live from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, providing an up-close look at the more than 320 NFL prospects looking to take the next step in their careers. Live coverage of on-field workouts begins Saturday, Feb. 22 at 7:00 a.m. (MT) with the offensive linemen, tight ends and kickers, and continues with the running backs, quarterbacks and wide receivers on Sunday, Feb. 22, linebackers and defensive linemen on Monday, Feb. 24 and defensive backs on Tuesday, Feb. 25. Coverage of workouts begins each day at 7:00 a.m. (MT).

Both Larsen and Lawson earned All-America honors following their senior seasons at Utah State as Larsen was named a second-team All-American by USA Today Sports, while Lawson was named a third-team All-American by College Sports Madness. Alexander finished his senior season earning honorable mention all-Mountain West honors, while Tialavea missed the final eight games of the year with an injury.

Larsen, a 6-4, 312-pound offensive center from Salt Lake City, Utah (Jordan HS), was named a second-team All-American by USA Today Sports during his senior season to become just the 12th player in school history to be named a first or second team All-American, including just the third offensive lineman. Larsen was also one of six finalists for the Rimington Trophy in 2013, which is presented annually to the most outstanding center in college football, and became just the ninth player in school history to be a three-time first-team all-conference selection after earning first-team all-Mountain West honors as a senior.

During his senior season in 2013, Larsen started all 14 games at center and led the team with an overall performance grade of 89 percent, including 82 percent in technique and 91 percent in effort. He carried out the right assignment 98 percent of the time, including seven games where he graded out at a perfect 100 percent. He also graded out above 90 percent nine times in total performance and above 85 percent 12 times in effort and above 80 percent nine times in technique. Larsen finished the season with 56.5 knockdowns.

Larsen concluded his Utah State career starting 52 consecutive games, which is a school record, and ranked third in the nation among active players.

Lawson, a 5-10, 186-pound cornerback from Lauderhill, Fla. (Piper HS) was named a third-team All-American by College Sports Madness and received first-team all-Mountain West honors following his senior season.

During the 2013 season, Lawson ranked third in the Mountain West and 25th in the nation in passes defended (1.21 pg), and tied for eighth in the conference and tied for 82nd in the nation in interceptions (0.29 pg). Lawson finished the year first on the team in passes defended (17) as he had 13 pass breakups and four interceptions, which ranked first and second on the team, respectively. Lawson was also tied for fifth on the team in total tackles with 57 (33-solo, 24-assist), and was sixth on the team with 5.0 tackles for loss.

As a senior, Lawson was named the Mountain West’s Defensive Player of the Week against both Boise State (10/12) and UNLV (11/9). Against the Broncos, he recorded a career-high two interceptions, returning one 65 yards for his first career touchdown, while adding a career-high five passes defended and tying his career-high with nine tackles. Against the Rebels, he recorded four tackles, including one for loss on a fake field goal, to go along with two pass breakups and one interception in the end zone. Lawson, who also had a career-high five pass breakups against Hawai’i (11/2), concluded his season by recording four or more tackles in eight games, and had three games with multiple passes defended.

Alexander, a 6-2, 212-pound safety from St. Louis, Mo. (Eureka HS/Arizona Western College) earned honorable mention honors from the Mountain West as he started 13 games during his senior season and finished the year ranking 32nd in the conference with 6.2 tackles per game, the most by any safety in the league. He finished the season fourth on the team with 80 tackles (40-solo, 40-assist) and fourth in tackles for loss with 9.0. He was also fourth on the team with 3.5 sacks and fourth with six pass breakups, while his two forced fumbles tied for first on the team. Alexander recorded a career-high 11 tackles in season-opener at Utah and had eight or more tackles in five games during the season. He also had a career-high 1.5 sacks and a career-best two pass breakups against the Utes. Alexander intercepted his first career pass against San José State and forced fumbles in back-to-back games against BYU and Boise State, while recovering his first career fumble at Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship game.

Tialavea, a 6-4, 260-pound tight end from West Jordan, Utah (West Jordan HS) played in the first six games of the season, including four starts, before missing the remainder of the year with an injury. He finished his senior season with 17 receptions for 93 yards (5.5 ypr) with three touchdowns, as he ranked tied for third on the team in touchdowns and sixth in receptions. He caught a career-high four passes against BYU and had a career-best two touchdown receptions from five and eight yards against Weber State as he was named an honorable mention National Tight End of the Week by College Football Performance Awards. Tialavea also had a 3-yard touchdown reception at San José State during the season.

In all, Alexander, Larsen, Lawson and Tialavea were part of the winningest class in school history with 31 victories.

Utah State concluded the 2013 season with a 21-14 win against 24th-ranked Northern Illinois in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl to finish the year with a 9-5 record and tie the 1960 and 1961 teams for the second-most wins in school history. With its win against Northern Illinois, Utah State posted back-to-back bowl wins for the first time in school history as it played in its third-straight bowl game, also a first at USU.

Utah State, who finished the 2013 season by winning six of its final seven games, also set the school record for conference wins as it posted a 7-1 league mark in its first season in the Mountain West to win the Mountain Division of the conference and advance to the inaugural Mountain West Championship game.

Utah State ended the year ranking tied for 37th nationally in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ polls with two votes each, marking the second time in as many years that USU has concluded the season ranked among the top teams in the nation as the 2012 team was ranked 16th in the final AP poll, 17th in the final coaches’ poll and 22nd in the final Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings.

Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball or on Facebook at Utah State Football, as well as on Instagram at instagram.com/USUFootball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.

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