#21 Northern Arizona FCS Football 2013 Preview

Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

Overall Rank: #21
#4 Big Sky

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Following an understandable loss at Arizona State to open up the 2012 campaign, Northern Arizona reeled off eight straight victories. That included wins at UNLV and Montana. Sitting at 8-1 things were looking good for the Lumberjacks. Surely one more win would cement their spot in the playoffs. Even two losses gave them a chance. And there were two home games left against Southern Utah and Cal Poly. NAU lost them both in heartbreaking fashion, but the good news is that nine starters are back on each side of the ball and this time they will not let the playoffs slip away.

2012 Record: 8-3, 6-2
2012 Postseason: None
Coach: Jerome Souers (76-82 at Northern Arizona, 76-82 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Rich Scangarello
Defensive Coordinator: Andy Thompson

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Zach Bauman, RB, 1,182 yards
Passing: Chase Cartwright, QB, 461 yards
Receiving: Dejzon Walker, WR, 505 yards
Tackles: Anders Battle, CB, 64
Sacks: Marc Thompson, DL, 5.5; Tim Wilkinson, DL, 5.5
Interceptions: Lucky Dozier, S, 4

Other Key Returnees: WR Nick Cole, LB Chris Connolly, OL Roy Garcia, DL Steven Garcia, OL Joe Gurski, LB Austin Hasquet, DL Chima Ike, OL Shane Moniz, LB Ryan Reardon, TE R.J. Rickert, WR Ify Umodu, OL Kyle Walker, S Blair Wishom

Key Losses: DL Jarrett Bilbrey, OL Trey Gilleo, QB Cary Grossart, WR Austin Shanks, CB Devin Willis

During their eight game winning streak, the Northern Arizona defense allowed more than 14 points on just two occasions. Against Southern Utah and Cal Poly they gave up a total of 77 points. The defense may not have the momentum they had hoped for heading into 2013, but the unit is loaded and has already proven to be very effective. The front four will have to move on without Jarrett Bilbrey, who totaled a team high 7.0 sacks, but Marc Thompson, Tim Wilkinson, Chima Ike and Steven Garcia are all experienced seniors. The talent continues at linebacker where Ryan Reardon is back to lead the way. He will be joined by Austin Hasquet, who totaled 61 tackles as a sophomore, and Chris Connolly. The beneficiaries of the front four’s pressure will be the secondary. Safeties Lucky Dozier and Blair Wishom combined for seven interceptions a year ago and they are ready to become even better leaders during their senior seasons. At corner Anders Battle is one of the best in the country. In addition to breaking up six passes, he led the Lumberjacks with 64 tackles.

As long as Zach Bauman is on the field, the Lumberjacks offense will be in decent shape. The bruising back rushed for 1,182 yards and eight scores as a junior and will be in for a great senior year. The offensive line will make sure of it. Roy Garcia leads a deep and experienced bunch which returns four starters. Plenty of quality pass receiving options return as well. Dejzon Walker is the best of the bunch after catching 36 passes for 505 yards and three scores. Ify Umodu, Nick Cole and tight end R.J. Rickert are all big targets that combined to catch a dozen touchdown passes. Gone is receiver Austin Shanks. On offense he did not make much of an impact, but he was one of the best return men in the game. But the bigger problem will be replacing quarterback Cary Grossart. Grossart was never the most dynamic passer in the Big Sky, but he was a smart player who completed nearly 67 percent of passes and did a decent job keeping the interceptions down. With Grossart the Lumberjacks ranked seventh in the conference in total offense. Without him, it could be worse. Chase Cartwright got the call a few games as a sophomore when Grossart was on the sidelines and that experience will be huge. The 6-3 junior has a nice arm, but for an offense that is going to rely on Bauman on the ground, Cartwright will need to be more efficient.

The Bottom Line:
The Big Sky slate is rarely easy. The good news is NAU misses Eastern Washington, but they face Montana State, Sacramento State and Cal Poly on the road. If those three road trips end in losses, Northern Arizona will again be on the outside of the playoff picture, barring an upset of Arizona and a little luck elsewhere. But we know this is a group that can win on the road. They went 5-1 away from the Skydome in 2012 with that lone loss coming against the Sun Devils.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 174.18 (38th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 233.36 (39, 9)
Total Offense: 407.55 (36, 7)
Scoring Offense: 31.64 (27, 6)
Rushing Defense: 137.55 (38, 5)
Pass Defense: 204.64 (44, 1)
Total Defense: 342.18 (37, 2)
Scoring Defense: 23.64 (43, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.36 (32, 2)
Sacks: 2.45 (27, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.82 (99, 9)

Madness 2013 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#89 Tyler Shank


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