Northern Arizona Preview

The last time NAU came to Tempe, the Sun Devil faithful were restless at halftime score of 14-14. ASU pitched a shutout of the Lumberjacks in the second half en route to a 35-14 win but, nonetheless, an impression was left. If last year's unpredictable college football season taught us anything, it's that games like this have the potential to be a huge spoiler if underdogs like NAU are overlooked.

2007 Record: 6-5
Head Coach: Jerome Souers

OFFENSE
*Projected Starters

QB Lance Kriesien, SR
WR Skyler Moore, SR
WR Curt Sweeney, JR
TE Shaun Fitzpatrick, SR
LT Trevor Heekin, SR
LG Vinnie Paciulli, RS-FR
C Kevin Meagher, JR
RG Kris Poindexter, SO
RT Ryan Holstrom, JR
RB Alex Henderson, JR
WR Ryan Rauschert, JR

Fifth-year senior Lance Kriesien heads a trio of signal-callers looking to add more consistency in the passing game this season. Kriesien, who passed for 1,897 yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago, has the experience but hasn't quite fended off a pair of transfers to become the starter, which Souers has yet to name. Corey Slater, an SMU transfer, was injured early last season but the staff has been pleased with his development, along with Michael Herrick, who was previously at Ole Miss.

Junior running back Alex Henderson is a real bright spot in the Lumberjack backfield. Henderson helped the 'Jacks lead the conference in rushing last season by tallying 899 yards and 6 touchdowns on 152 carries. The former Big Sky Newcomer of the Year in 2006 currently ranks 10th in school history with 1,913 career yards and is likely to catapult his way toward the top with two years left to be played.

As long as he can stay healthy, Skyler Moore gives the 'Jacks a scoring threat at wide receiver with his 6'3" frame. Moore suffered an ankle injury midway through last season that derailed his plans to build upon an outstanding sophomore campaign. The senior had 9 touchdowns on 39 receptions in 2006 and is anticipating bigger things this fall with a clean bill of health. Former Gilbert Highland standout Shaun Fitzpatrick has also shown his pass-catching prowess as he was second in receptions a year ago with 28 catches. Juniors Ryan Rauschert, Ed Berry, and Curt Sweeney round out the rest of the notable receivers.

DEFENSE
*Projected Starters

DE Kyle Rath, SO
DL Stephen Nwogbe, SR
DE Brandon Vance, SO
LB Stevon Thomas, JR
LB Cody Dowd, JR
LB Zac McNally, JR
S Adam Wright, SR
S Cyrus Igono, SR
S Kasseem Osheroff, SO
CB K.J. Gerard, SR
CB Josh Luck, JR

The strength of NAU's 3-3-5 defense is in the secondary, where the Lumberjacks return a wealth of experience. Cornerback K.J. Gerard is an All-American candidate after notching 6 interceptions last season. Gerard is joined by safety Cyrus Igono, who led the team in tackles in 2007 with 79 stops. Igono, younger brother of former Sun Devil Josiah, also recorded 3 interceptions as a junior. Junior Josh Luck is slated to start at the corner spot opposite Gerard while senior Adam Wright will join Igono at safety. Sophomore Kasseem Osheroff, who tallied 12 tackles and an interception as a true freshman last fall will also play significant minutes.

Head coach Jerome Souers likes the potential at linebacker but is fully aware of the position's lack of senior leadership and experience to some extent. Junior college transfer Stevon Thomas' fine performance in the spring appears to have won him a starting job alongside juniors Cody Dowd and Zac McNally. McNally is the top returning tackler at linebacker with 49 stops while Dowd finished with 35 stops last year.

A senior and a pair of sophomores will anchor the defensive line. Kyle Rath and Brandon Vance combined for 24 tackles as freshmen last fall and should see more action this season. Senior Stephen Nwogbe played in only four games a year ago due to injury but is expected to make bigger contributions up front for the 'Jacks. Junior college transfer Mike Battisti is slated to be a part of the rotation as well.

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK Robby Dehaze, SR
P Robby Dehaze, SR

KR Curt Sweeney, JR
PR Cyrus Igono, SR

Senior Robby Dehaze is a three-way specialist, handling all three kicking duties for the Lumberjacks. Dehaze converted on 18 of his 24 field goal attempts last season with two of those being blocked. His longest make was from 52 yards out. Like his Arizona State counterpart, Dehaze took over punting duties last fall and averaged 43.3 yards on 55 punts. Nearly half of his punts were downed inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

Wide receiver Curt Sweeney returned 14 kickoffs for a 20-yard average last season and appears to reprise his role on kickoff returns this year. NAU lost its top two punt returners from 2007 but returns Cyrus Igono, a senior defensive back with previous experience. Igono netted a 22-yard average returning 4 punts last season, including one for a touchdown. The senior defensive back also came up big with four blocked kicks a year ago.

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