NAU's defense is off to a decent start this season with the real strength of the unit being on the defensive line.
Senior defensive end Zach McDonnell is undersized, but plays with great energy. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound lineman has shown glimpses in the first two weeks with three of his five tackles going for loss, but this is a tough matchup for him.
Junior defensive end Lorenzo Melvin is one of NAU's more underrated players and missed most of last season with an injury. He has 1.5 sacks this season and Arizona will certainly need to get a body on him.
Defensive right tackle Deon Young started last game, but was not able to get in the stat book. He's certainly better than that and is likely the Lumberjacks' best interior lineman.
Linebacker Jake Thomas has some experience from last season and he’s coming off maybe his best career game. Thomas finished last season with 40 tackles and already has 11 in two games.
At 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, Thomas does lack some speed in space and Arizona could look to take advantage of that,
Senior linebacker Josh Bamrick leads NAU with 15 tackles in two games. He is actually listed as splitting time with Jake Casteel, but Bamrick easily sees more action.
Cornerback Marcus Alford is arguably the best player on the NAU roster. Arizona won’t steer away from Alford but it does seem reasonable that Arizona will test NAU”s underclassmen corners.
In fact, the Lumberjacks are so confident in Alford that there is a good chance it will allow him to cover Cayleb Jones one-on-one in order to make sure that the other corners have enough help.
NAU will call on freshman Maurice Davison to handle the other side of the line. He has good speed, but it's a scary proposition for the Lumberjacks because Davison is only 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. Of course, if he was any taller, he probably wouldn't be at NAU.
Senior safety Eddie Horn is an in the box safety and one of the leaders of the NAU secondary. He started 11 games last season and figures to hear his name called many times Saturday.
Junior college transfer LeAndre Vaughn is a transfer from Glendale Community College and still seems to be adjusting to this level of play, as he only has four tackles.
The Lumberjacks will consistently use 5-foot-11, 190-pound Delvin Batiste at nickel with Darius Lewis. We consider Lewis to be the better player, but at 5-foot-9, it would not be a surprise if Batiste sees more time in this one.
The reality of the situation is that the NAU secondary just isn't very good and Arizona will try to exploit that early and often.
Players to Watch
#31, LB Josh Bamrick: The senior junior college transfer was everywhere against Stephen F. Austin, accumulating 9 tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss. The Lumberjacks figure to lean heavily on Bamrick this season.
#99, DL Zach McDonnell: Blessed with a wealth of experience, the undersized pass rusher has thrived this season. Arizona will key on him each snap.
#7, S Eddie Horn: The senior safety is coming off an 8 tackle game. You don't want a safety to lead the team in tackles, but that is likely where Horn is headed.
Keys to the Game
1. Contain the run: NAU has shown a surprisingly stout run defense. It says here that is fool’s gold. Not only is it imperative that Arizona run the ball able to make Anu’s job either, it’s also not a good sign if Arizona has to open up the playbook to beat NAU.
2. Get after the NAU passing game: The main concern going into the season was the concern about Arizona’s pass rush. Those fears haven’t been allayed. There is no excuse to not get multiple sacks.
3. Start out fast: Arizona hasn’t played well defensively in the first half of each game. The inability to get off the field on third down has been a major reason that teams have sustained long drives against Arizona.