#24 Northern Arizona FCS Football 2014 Preview

Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

Overall Rank: #24
#4 Big Sky

Northern Arizona Team Page#24 Northern Arizona FCS Football 2014 PreviewBuy Northern Arizona Football Tickets

Behind the Big Sky’s best defense, Northern Arizona went 7-1 in conference play. Their lone loss was at Montana State and their only other loss heading into the playoffs was the season opener at Arizona. Coach Jerome Souers has a bit of reloading to do though and now the offense may have to be the unit that carries the Lumberjacks to the playoffs.

2013 Record: 9-3, 7-1
2013 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Jerome Souers (93-88 at Northern Arizona, 93-88 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Rich Scangarello
Defensive Coordinator: Andy Thompson

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Casey Jahn, RB, 212 yards
Passing: Kyren Poe, QB, 1,602 yards
Receiving: Dejzon Walker, WR, 361 yards
Tackles: Austin Hasquet, LB, 91
Sacks: Zach McDonnell, DL, 2.0
Interceptions: Austin Hasquet, LB, 3

Other Key Returnees: QB Chase Cartwright, WR Alex Holmes, TE R.J. Rickert, OL Jacob Julian, CB Marcus Alford, CB Randy Hale Jr.

Key Losses: RB Zach Bauman, WR Nick Cole, WR Jessee Brantley, DL Tim Wilkinson, DL Steven Garcia, DL Chima Ike, S Mike Dosen, LB Anthony Harrington, S Lucky Dozier, CB Anders Battle, K/P Andy Wilder

The offense will be led by quarterback Kyron Poe. He started eight contests last season and threw for 1,602 yards and six touchdowns. He did complete over 60 percent of his passes, but the ten interceptions were a problem. This NAU team is going to throw more, so the pressure is on Poe. Senior Chase Cartwright is back too and he threw eight touchdowns and two interceptions in limited action and will be breathing down Poe’s neck. Dejzon Walker and Alex Holmes are ready to step up and turn into the top receivers for Poe. And R.J. Rickert is one of the best tight ends in the nation. But of course the biggest change is at running back where Zach Bauman graduated after an amazing collegiate career. Last season he rushed for 1,456 yards and nine touchdowns. Junior Casey Jahn, who rushed for 212 yards and a touchdown in 2013, and redshirt freshman Corbin Jountti will be asked to carry the load. Fullback Nick Butier paved the way for Bauman and is a huge asset for Jahn and Jountti. As bad as it may sound for the ground game, this offense is in good shape with experience all around. And the line is loaded with experience too. Roy Garcia, Eric Rodriguez and Jacob Julian started all 12 games last season and left tackle Joe Gurski is back after missing all of last year with an injury.

It is hard to call this defense a weakness after they led the Big Sky in pass defense and total defense. But eight starters are gone. Returning though is linebacker Austin Hasquet, who has been the heart and soul of the unit. With him manning the middle, the Lumberjacks just need to build around his talent. Craig Frum missed most of last season and he is an experienced linebacker who will step back into a starting role. Marcus Alford is an emerging star at cornerback and he will get some help from Randy Hale and Blake Bailey too. But there are major questions at both safety spots and across most of the front four. Zach McDonnell is the lone returning starter and NAU will have to rely on some newcomers to fill the gaps.

The Bottom Line:
The defense has to take a step back, but Hasquet will not let that step be too big. And the offense should be improved. The schedule is quite manageable too, at least by Big Sky standards. Montana and Montana State are not on the slate and the Lumberjacks get Eastern Washington, Southern Utah, UC Davis and Cal Poly at home. Those are tough, tough home games, but better at home than on the road of course. If Northern Arizona can hold serve at home, they should be able to win a few road games and reach the playoffs. But winning all those home games will be the tricky part.

Projected Postseason: None

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 148.9 (77th in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 202.1 (72, 9)
Total Offense: 351.0 (80, 10)
Scoring Offense: 23.2 (78, 8)
Rushing Defense: 157.6 (53, 7)
Pass Defense: 190.8 (26, 1)
Total Defense: 348.3 (28, 1)
Scoring Defense: 22.0 (18, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.40 (27, 4)
Sacks: 1.83 (72, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 2.33 (78, 10)

Madness 2014 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#100 Bryant O'Georgia
#110 Cole Sterns
#115 Emanuel Butler
#119 Wesley Sutton


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