FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — There was a common theme following Northern Arizona’s practice Thursday, with both sides of the ball wanting better execution heading into the second scrimmage of the preseason.
“We have to come out and execute,” said junior defensive lineman Tim Wilkinson. “That has been a problem the last couple years, having the 10-plus-one syndrome. We have 10 guys doing it the right way and one doing it wrong. As far as I am concerned, execution and effort (are the most important).”
The Lumberjacks take the field Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Walkup Skydome. The scrimmage is free and open to the public.
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The defense looks to be headed in the right direction in the first three weeks of camp. In the first scrimmage last week, defensive coordinator Andy Thompson’s unit recorded nine sacks and limited the offense to just two scores.
“We have put the offense in some tough situations early,” said NAU coach Jerome Souers. “We have thrown a lot at them: coverage, blitz and scheme that make it difficult to get your timing down early.”
The offense looks for a better performance Friday, especially in terms of moving the ball and protecting in passing situations.
“The offense just needs to work out the little things,” said senior tackle Trey Gilleo. “Every time we did a play, we had one mistake here, one mistake there that made a 60-yard run into a 4-yard run. We have to work on those little things that will hopefully make us a complete offense.”
Gilleo said that while the defense has provided a tough look this fall, he has seen the offense’s improvement on film.
“The offense is looking good,” said Gilleo. “It is tough to see the progress because we have such a good defense right now. We are making strides every day and getting better. You can see it on film every week. It is a little better and better, and things are meshing.”
Souers likes the direction his team is headed as well as its development.
“We have seen improvement in the second week of camp, and we are looking for better execution in those situations,” said Souers. “I hope to see plays on both sides of the football. When you reduce the game down to the fundamentals, it is going to be whoever is playing their technique the best that is going to win.”
With two weeks until the opener at Arizona State, the Lumberjacks will by vying for starting spots and playing time as well.
“We have had a lot of competitive tension in all of our positions,” said Souers. “There are some guys that are pushing each other, and scrimmage situations are the only times you get a chance to show you are better than somebody. That is when we need to see it.
“The guys that are in a supporting roles or are trying to start need to show that they are worthy of that kind of recognition. Starters need to hold their spot. Guys that are going to challenge need to play better than the guys in front of them to expect any depth chart to change.”