Many times, college football coaches will see that a high school player has a pretty severe injury and yank a scholarship previously offered to that player.
That didn’t happen to Davis High senior Alema Max Tupuola. Quite the contrary, actually.
Despite a fractured fibula in his left leg that cost him half of the 2018 season, the Darts’ senior linebacker showed enough talent in just more than five games to warrant scholarship offers from Weber State, Idaho State, Eastern Washington, the Naval Academy and Lehigh.
In the end, he’ll stick closer to home. In front of dozens of Davis High students, Tupuola signed a letter of intent to play football with Weber State on Wednesday during National Signing Day.
“It just felt right. I did lots of praying, stuff like that, it felt right with my faith. Great school, I love it up there,” said Tupuola, who had his mind made up on Sunday to go to WSU but still gave it a lot of thought before putting pen to paper.
Tupuola said he won’t play at WSU this fall and will likely stick around Davis to help coach. He plans to leave on a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and return to WSU by fall 2022.
Darts quarterback Garrett Larson signed a preferred walk-on offer to go to Utah State. He said he’ll head to Logan and “probably” redshirt this fall before heading out on a mission next January.
Tupuola and Larson were flanked by two of their teammates in tight end Jack Rigby and kicker Will Ferrin. Neither of them signed Wednesday.
Ferrin was initially committed to Utah State and planned to leave on a mission this summer; however, the University of Utah offered him a spot Wednesday morning, complicating what Ferrin thought was already a done deal. He said he’ll likely make a choice this week.
Rigby has a full-ride offer from Dixie State, which is Division II this season but transitioning to D-I starting in the 2020 season. He also has walk-on spots from Brigham Young University and Utah State. Davis head coach Mitch Arquette said Rigby will likely make a decision later this week.
In six games, Tupuola totaled 48 tackles, 9.5 tackles-for-loss and 4.5 sacks. He injured his leg in a 21-14 loss to Fremont in mid-September and didn’t return until the state quarterfinal game at Lone Peak.
The first full game he missed was against Weber, which is when he talked to new WSU inside linebackers coach Matt Hammer for the first time.
“He came up to me, he’s like ‘Hey you’re a great player, we wish you were playing.’ He was telling me I was a great kid and from then on, I’ve just always had that memory of him, so we’ve had a great relationship,” Tupuola said.
In the first four games, he had 38 tackles, eight TFLs and all 4.5 of the sacks as Davis started the season 4-0. That was all the college coaches needed to see.
5 WEBER PLAYERS SIGN D-I OFFERS
Last week, Weber High linebacker Brandt Opheikens was in wait-and-see mode with his college football recruitment. Then he committed to Utah State on Saturday, announcing the move in a social media post, taking a preferred walk-on offer.
At 6:30 the very next morning, Opheikens woke up to around 13 missed calls on his phone from Weber State coaches. They had a scholarship offer for him. The social media post was deleted.
Wednesday, Opheikens indeed signed with the Wildcats in an early-morning ceremony next to lineman Josh Carter, who signed a scholarship to WSU to be a long snapper.
“It kind of came down to the money issue. Had to pay to go to Utah State, free college, that’s kind of what made my decision,” Opheikens said.
“It’s the best opportunity for me to go play.”
At the same table with both of them was receiver/defensive back Hudson Schenck, who took a walk-on spot at Weber State last week and didn’t make it official until Wednesday. Most of his schooling will be paid for with academic scholarships, he said.
Schenck caught 42 passes for 882 yards and nine touchdowns on offense, made 36 tackles with interceptions on defense and returned two punts for touchdown on special teams.
Combined with linebacker Sione Moa and kicker Pierce Callister, who both signed with Utah State, that makes five Division-I football recruits coming from this year’s senior football class at Weber High.
“That was probably the most fun about today is signing with people I’ve played with my whole life. Brandt Opheikens, I’ve played with since second grade, Josh Carter, same thing,” Schenck said.
For a program that toiled in the mud for many years before Hammer became the coach, the five college-bound players may be one of the biggest signing classes in Weber’s history.
“It’s awesome. Especially because those kids have really put in the work to earn that and most of them have been with the program since they came in as freshmen. They’ve played a lot of football up at Weber High,” Warriors defensive coordinator Billy Pluim said.
“You look at the success we’ve had the past two years in region with what we’ve done at Weber high, those guys have been a huge part of that. Getting them on the field and letting them do their thing, it’s been fun.”
Speaking of Hammer, it’s not hard to point out the connection in which Opheikens-and-Schenck-to-Weber-State happened. Hammer took the inside linebackers coach position at WSU earlier this month.
Opheikens played inside linebacker for the Warriors. Schenck said it was easy to pick WSU because he has a good relationship with Hammer.
Below is a list of high school student athletes who have signed letters of intent to play college sports. Several football players in the area are undecided as of signing day, including Roy High defensive back Kyrese Rowan, Roy offensive lineman Zack Mendoza, Ogden quarterback Bo DeVries and Ogden wide receiver Irving Gastelum.
Rhyle Hanson, RB, Ogden
Hanson is expected to walk on at Weber State.
The S-E All-Area first teamer rushed for 1,295 yards and 17 touchdowns while averaging 7.2 yards per carry and caught 44 passes for 628 yards and three scores.
Josh Turpin, LB, Bonneville
Turpin announced on social media in January that he committed to Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California, which is a suburb of San Diego.
Turpin, an S-E All-Area first teamer, had 93 tackles with 18 TFL’s, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Carson Stokes, LB/TE, Northridge
Stokes, an S-E All-Area first teamer, announced Tuesday that he’ll walk on at the University of Utah, choosing the Utes over a walk-on offer from BYU and a partial offer from Southern Utah.
At linebacker, Stokes had 70 tackles including eight TFLs, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, one interception and one forced fumble. On offense, he caught 42 passes for 615 yards and nine scores.
Tyson Madson, DL,
Madson will walk on at Weber State, according to his father, Greg.
Parker Nicoll, DL, Bountiful
Nicoll announced on social media that he’ll walk on at BYU. Nicoll, an S-E All-Area first teamer, had 63 tackles with 10 TFLs, five pass deflections, three sacks, two interceptions, two defensive touchdowns and a forced fumble.
Jon Hunt, DE/TE, Layton
Hunt will walk on at Weber State. Hunt had 23 tackles with four sacks this season, as well as two receiving touchdowns.
Aaron Bredsguard, DE, Viewmont
Bredsguard signed with Utah State in December’s early signing period. Bredsguard had 61 tackles, 11 sacks, 10 TFLs and one forced fumble.
Colten Hansen, LB, Morgan
Hansen committed to Pacific University, a Division III school in Forest Grove, Oregon, outside of Portland.
James Baird, K,
Baird, a Northridge High alumnus, signed with Dixie State, the school announced Wednesday.
Camryn Karras, MF, Weber
Karras signed with the Air Force Academy on Wednesday morning and she wasn’t alone. Teammate Brinlee Collings joined her and “signed” with her as a special gesture, even though Collings signed an NLI with Colorado College (Division I, Mountain West) back in the fall. Air Force is also in the Mountain West, so Karras and Collings will go from playing with each other to playing against each other.
MaKenna Kap, P, Northridge
Kap signed a scholarship offer to play at Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tennessee.