FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Everything on offense starts with the offensive line, and based on the performance of the Northern Arizona offense in 2011, the line was a success — and it should again be a strength in 2012.
The NAU offense ranked 14th in the Football Championship Subdivision in in total offense, producing the Big Sky’s top rusher and pass-efficiency leader. Running back Zach Bauman ranked fourth in the country in rushing with over 1,400 yards and had seven games of over 100 yards on the season. The Lumberjacks posted the top passing efficiency mark in the Big Sky and ranked sixth in the nation in 2011 behind the play of Cary Grossart at quarterback.
“The (strength) is their ability to be on the same page,” said offensive line coach Eric Reid. “They understand the concepts and know what to do on every run play and how to set on every pass play. They act like a fist instead of a hand.”
The line is led by senior tackle Trey Gilleo, who will play at right tackle in 2012 after starting the entire 2011 season on the left side. The Kingman product was an All-Big Sky honorable-mention selection and received the John G. Yost Memorial Award for offensive lineman of the year and the Competitive Greatness Awards at the team banquet.
“He is a fifth-year senior, and he is acting like it,” said Reid. “He studies like a professional football player. He knows the game like a professional football player, and he takes the attitude like he is a professional football player. He is doing great. He is going to be a good lockdown tackle for us.”
Sophomore Roy Garcia enters the season as the starter at right guard, with senior Matt Wilson, who has seen action in over 20 games in his career, listed as the backup at both tackle and guard on the right side.
Left guard Kyle Walker returns after earning the Outstanding Offensive Sophomore of the Year honor at the team banquet in 2011. Sophomore Joe Gurski and senior Chris Pitts will handle the tackle slot on the left side.
“I think, throughout the fall, we have developed and become one group,” said Reid. “Whether it is the first group or the second group, they are all on the same page and acting as one. They have grinded it out and worked hard. They have fought through a lot of blood, sweat and tears. They are ready to roll in their first game.”
Sophomore Shane Moniz will take over the duties at center, replacing All-Big Sky selection Alex Mott. He has impressed during fall drills and demonstrated that he’s capable of handling the duties of the position.
“He is everything you want in a center,” said Reid. “He can do anything you want. I think he has the potential to be as good as any center we have had at NAU. We are really excited to see how he operates this fall.”
His linemates have seen Moniz take over the leadership role that playing center requires.
“Shane is playing great,” said Wilson. “He is making tons of plays, and his calls are good. He is picking up right where Mott left off last year. He is not a guy you have to worry about all. You know he is going to be making plays. He is going to give everything he has got.”
Overall, Reid is pleased with the performance of the line and its collective development since 2011.
“The new guys are jelling well,” said Reid. “They had a great summer. They are strong and healthy and ready to roll. Hopefully there is no drop off from last year. In fact, I hope they are better than last year.”
The confidence is high entering the season opener against Arizona State next Thursday.
“If we play like we know we can, there is nothing that is going to stop us,” said Gilleo. “We have a great runner and a great quarterback, and we know our offensive line is going to move people.”