NAU Preview

Another in-state duel commences this Thursday as the NAU Lumberjacks make a trip to Tempe to take on the 24th ranked ASU Sun Devils. The Flagstaff based team is eager to kickoff the season as a total of 17 starters return. After a dismal 3-8 2005 season, the Jacks are looking to ride the arm of an experienced senior QB and eight returning starters on defense.

2005 Record: 3-8, 1-6 (Big Sky)
Head Coach: Jerome Souers


The return of four offensive line starters and a senior quarterback may prove to be a recipe for success in Flagstaff this season. Former Glendale Ironwood product Jason Murietta embarks on his final season as a Lumberjack signal caller. Murietta will be looking to bounce back from a turbulent 2005 season after throwing for 16 interceptions. Sophomores Lance Kriesien and Brian Wriston will also be pushing Murietta for playing time under center.

The NAU running game will be a point of emphasis for Souers this season since his squad averaged just 97 yards on the ground last year. Returning starters Darrell Arnold, Tim Reader, Kevin Meagher, and Shane Sandau are the building blocks up front on the offensive line. The stable of running backs includes two returnees and three newcomers. Junior Josh Sayles, 88 yards on 33 carries in 2005, enters the season as the starter. Alex Henderson is listed at second on the depth chart as a redshirt freshman but will have to fight off Stanford transfer Gerald Commissiong. The Canadian senior chose NAU as his new destination after seeing time at both safety and running back in Palo Alto.

Junior Alex Watson is poised to be Murietta's favorite aerial target again after leading the team in catches with 50 last season. Watson went to on finish with 566 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. Behind Watson, there isn't an extensive amount of experience but the Lumberjacks are excited about the potential of the group. Sophomore Skyler Moore will be in the mix after playing in only two games as a freshman. Kenny Mahone, a JC transfer, also figures to get quite a few some snaps this fall. Adding depth will be Ryan Rauchert, a position switch from quarterback, and redshirt freshman Andrew Leahy.


Defensive tackle Randy Kirschman, a team captain, leads the charge up front on the defensive line after being sidelined part of last season with an injury. Defensive end Blair Boynton notched 38 tackles, 4.5 of those for a loss, last season. Drew Hoffman is another experienced defensive end back for another season after 30 tackles a year ago. Josh Williams, a junior who switched to nose tackle after playing on the offensive line, will also play quite a bit this season. Former Sun Devil linebacker DeAndre Johnson has moved up front and will come off of the bench for the Lumberjacks.

The linebackers are anchored by two experienced seniors, Chris Hunsaker and D.J. Wade. Hunsaker was named the team's defensive newcomer of the year last season after transferring from Butte College. Both had a combined 123 tackles in 2005. Junior Shaun Baker and sophomore Jared Fano will also compete for time. The X-factor will be Joe Mitchell, a junior who redshirted last season after an injury, that should provide some depth in the middle.

Souers is expecting good things from a talented secondary returning this season, led by K.J. Gerard. The junior cornerback was selected as the defensive player of the year for the Lumberjacks after lead the Big Sky in interceptions with 4 last season. At the other corner spot is senior Kris Theus. The two defensive backs combined for 18 pass deflections in 2005. A couple of JC transfers, Nate Dedic and Adam Wright, will be shuffled at safety while Marcus McIllwain returns after starting in 10 games as a freshman. Senior Jeff Wheeler and sophomore Kurt Karstens round out the safety depth.


Lumberjack punter Rhian Madrid was a first team conference selection as a junior. Madrid ranked fourth in the nation last season with a 43.0 yard punt average. The capable senior's longest punt went for 71 yards. Robbie Dehaze's campaign as a freshman in 2005 has Souers optimistic for his kicker's fortunes in Flagstaff as he was 9 of 13 on field goal attempts. Dehaze converted on his first eight field goal attempts last season but went on to miss the next four so consistency will be a theme for the sophomore.

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