NAU signs 18, including 7 in-state recruits

NAU fills needs with 18-player recruiting class that includes seven prospects from within state.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona football program announced its 18-player signing class on Wednesday, also known as National Signing Day.

“It was important that this signing class reflect balance and that the candidates that we did sign were able to contribute to make a difference,” said NAU coach Jerome Souers. “The talent level and the character of the class fit our profile of what defines success of a Northern Arizona University football player. You are not just a high-performing athlete on the field but are going to perform well in the classroom and be an exceptional leader in the community. We did well both in state and regionally and went to both coasts to find what we needed for our class in 2013.”

The Lumberjacks' signing class includes seven in-state products, including Chandler tight end Patrick Baldenegro, Phoenix Desert Vista defensive lineman Lorenzo Melvin, Chandler offensive lineman Tyler Shank and Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep cornerback Maurice White.

“Maurice White was an early commitment for us and set the tone for the class,” said Souers. “He is a tremendous athlete and competitor and is one of the best corners we have recruited in my time at Northern Arizona University. It is rare to find a player with his ball skills.”

Melvin, an all-state first-team selection and All-24/7 first team choice, recorded 98 tackles and 11.5 sacks as a senior.

“He gives us a speed rusher that can make a difference on a defense on the outside,” said Souers. “He is great pursuit player and is a tremendous student-athlete.”

Shank did not allow a sack and recorded 92 pancakes during his senior season. Baldenegro was an all-state tight end and one of the top scholar-athletes in the state, as evidenced by his selection to the National Football Foundation Valley of the Sun Chapter Scholar-Athlete first team.

“We helped ourselves out on the line of scrimmage with Tyler Shank,” said Souers. “He is a road grader and very physical. He comes from an outstanding winning program. Shank and Baldenegro will be a boost to the future on the offensive line.”

NAU also added Tempe Marcos de Niza linebacker Derek Craig, Kingman defensive tackle John Herrero and Gilbert Campo Verde tight end Bridger Rodoni.

The Lumberjacks inked eight players from the state of California, including Bakersfield Liberty product Corbin Jountii and West Covina South Hills offensive lineman Riley Deen.

Souers also reached into the Northwest to sign Skyview (Wash.) linebacker Jabari Marshall and Idaho wide receiver Marc Cooper.

“We have a profile of what we are looking for, and sometimes that does not fit in your backyard,” said Souers.

NAU also signed Lake City (Fla.) Columbia standout Javere Smith, a defensive end/defensive tackle.

“Javere plays a very competitive level of football and comes from an exceptional program. He understands the sacrifice it takes to play great defense. He is an impact defensive lineman. He might be the most versatile guy we have signed in some time.”

The NAU staff started with a database that included 4,000 players and over 1,000 hours of video. They conducted 963 high school visits and 107 home visits between last year's Signing Day and Wednesday.

NAU signed eight players on offense, including two offensive linemen, two tight ends, two wide receivers, a running back and quarterback. On defense, Souers added four defensive lineman, two safeties, two cornerback and two linebackers among.

“I really am thrilled with the effort the staff put out in recruiting,” said Souers. “They worked very hard from the beginning of identifying our needs and setting up our filters. With the fewer number of scholarships this year, there was lot of pressure to make perfect decisions. They did a good job of finding guys that will flourish in our program.”

The Lumberjacks are coming off an 8-3 season in 2012 and return 18 starters in 2013.

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