NAU football breakdowns: Linebackers
By Steve Shaff
Northern Arizona Media
Arizona Media Relations will provide position previews every day leading
up to the season opener against Arizona State on Aug. 30. Today: linebackers. Previously: tight
backs and defensive line.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Northern Arizona enters the season with a group of linebackers who learned on the fly while getting valuable experience in 2011.
Sophomore Craig Frum, who was named the Outstanding Defensive Freshman on the team, tied for the team lead in tackles last season, and he returns along with classmate Austin Hasquet at the middle linebacker position.
“I hope they are improved,” said NAU defensive coordinator Andy Thompson. “They had a whole year in the system. I know their strengths and weaknesses. We want to be a group that is dependable and physically and mentally tough. They learned a lot last year with the reps they got, and I hope they come out and do a good job of leading this defense.”
Three-year letter winner and senior Brandon Phillips joins starter Ryan Reardon at the strongside linebacker position. Reardon takes the field in 2012 after missing the 2011 season.
“He means a lot to the team,” said Frum about Reardon. “He comes with his hat every day and plays hard.”
Redshirt freshman Harrison Johnson is the projected starter at the third linebacker spot, with veteran Nick Ragland-Johnsen, who missed the 2011 season with a shoulder injury, and sophomore Tevin Ray providing depth.
Thompson said he appreciates the leadership at the position.
“There are a lot of leaders in the group,” said Thompson. “Ryan Reardon, Brandon Phillips, Austin Hasquet and Craig Frum and Nick Ragland-Johnsen are the guys that stick out to me and are doing a good job of being consistent.”
Frum, a Mesa Red Mountain product, says the experience gained in 2011 will help the linebackers be more reactive.
“I am expecting we are going to play a lot faster because we know the speed of the college game,” said Frum. “We know everything better than last year. We are looking to play fast. We are really confident. We had a good camp coming out here. We are looking to play good.”