FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — With one scrimmage down and Northern Arizona nearing the halfway point of its spring practice schedule, the Lumberjacks are working hard and getting ready for another successful season in the Big Sky Conference.
Although the Lumberjacks’ offensive and defensive units have been hitting the field hard, another area to look in to is the special teams group. It will be hard for NAU to replace All-American Andy Wilder, but the Lumberjacks must look towards the future and it starts this spring.
Junior Ryan Hawkins primarily handled kickoffs for NAU this past season, so there is an open spot for punting and field goal duties.
"Our specialists will major in one thing and minor in the other," said head coach Jerome Souers. "We need to find a punter. Ryan has the first opportunity to fill that position, but he is primarily our placekicker/kickoff guy. He’s been doing well at that and his punting has been surprisingly effective. We prefer to have two guys covering those three responsibilities, but the best guy is going to play."
The long snapper role this spring has been shared by seniors Andy Bachelier and Hayden Renning. Both players bring experience to the position, which is essential to special teams.
"The long snapping is a part of our special teams that isn’t used very often, but it’s the quickest way to lose a game if you don’t deliver the ball back properly to the punter," Souers said. "I think the guys we have bring us depth and I feel really confident at that position."
Junior Marcus Alford and senior Randy Hale Jr. continue to be in the mix for kickoff and punt return duties, while a few other players are also getting a chance to see what they can do.
"Right now Randy is out their catching punts, but we also have Alex Holmes and Eddie Horn," safeties/special teams coach David Reeves said. "We also have a few young guys coming in that we will count on. For kickoffs, we have Marcus, but we also have Corbin Jountti, Delvin Batiste and Casey Jahn, who have all touched the ball back there. Having this mixture of guys makes us feel comfortable when it comes to returns."
The Lumberjacks have eight more scheduled practices, including their spring game on April 26th. NAU will practice on Friday from 4-6 p.m. this week, instead of Thursday.