Scouting Report: NAU

Northern Arizona comes into Arizona Stadium with dreams of stunning their in-state brethren, but in reality they may be making the four-plus hour trek to Tucson to collect a paycheck. The Lumberjacks may be on the upswing in Division I AA, but it will take a monumental effort for the team to pull of the upset.

Northern Arizona Lumberjacks
Location: Flagstaff, AZ
Founded: 1899
Enrollment: 20,000
Conference: Big Sky
Head Coach: Jerome Souers (21-25, 4 years at NAU)

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2001 Record: 8-4
Conference Record/Finish: 5-2/T2nd
Final Ranking (I AA): 15th
Offense: Multiple
Defense: 4-3
Starters Returning: Off: 5; Def: 7

Offense: The Lumberjacks run an offense that will look very similar to what the Wildcats will run. The Jacks will employ multiple formations that can shift rum a traditional "I" to a wide-open five-receiver set. NAU is known for their offense and have the potential to put some points on the board.

First things first, the ‘Jacks have to break in a new quarterback. JC transfer Clint Womack will get the nod. After redshirting a year ago due to injury, Womack is ready to test his wares at the four-year level. At Grossmont College ha passed for 2,802 yards and 26 touchdowns, so he knows how to throw the ball. Expect the Wildcats to try and pressure Womack who could be rusty after a year off.

"Womack has played just 8-12 plays," Souers said.

The Lumberjacks will miss Marcus King in the backfield, but Brian Bingham proved himself as a back up a year ago. Now it is time for Bingham to step up as the primary ball carrier. Last season he picked up 650 yards and a team best 10 touchdowns.

Where the Lumberjacks are set is at receiver. The team returns two All-Big Sky receivers and feel quite confident with the unit as a whole. Clarence Moore and Johnny Marshall give the team two solid threats.

Where the Jacks could struggle is upfront. NAU must replace three key players on the line. The middle is anchored with guard Steve Gomez and center Pat Walsh, but some newcomers must step up if they are to have any success.

"We have some guys playing their first real football game at offensive line and quarterback," said Souers. "We have to be our best in our first game. We hope to put our best foot forward."

DEFENSE: The ‘Jacks run a version of Arizona's Double-Eagle Flex and Wildcat fans won't see much difference in what the two teams run.

Like the Wildcats, the Jacks will rely on several newcomers in key spots on the defensive line. Starter Isi Tuanaki is back and the team believes Ray Solis can improve upon his team high seven quarterback sacks.

Linebacker is the team's real strength. The team returns three talented starters from last season and a former starter on George Asalele who injured himself in the first game of 2001. Kaaina Keawe and Keith O'Neal are both All-Big Sky performers and have a knack for getting to the ball.

They return two starters from a year ago, including second-team All-Conference safety Keala Loo. The bad news for NAU is that they will break in two new corners against the pass-happy Wildcats.

OUTLOOK: NAU is a talented I-AA ball club but don't appear to have enough athletes and depth to hang with the Wildcats. The Wildcats are dinged up, but will have the bulk of their key contributors in the contest. Although the Wildcats will be breaking in a number of newcomers, they should have little trouble with the Lumberjacks. Unless there is a total breakdown by the Wildcats on both sides of the ball, the home team should win. ARIZONA 56, NAU 20.


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