Northern Arizona Media Relations will provide a position preview every day leading up to the season opener against Arizona State on Aug. 30. Aug. 22: Tight Ends; Aug. 23: Wide Receivers; Aug. 24: Offensive Line; Aug. 25: Quarterbacks; Today: Running Backs/Fullbacks; Aug. 27: Defensive Line; Aug: 28: Linebackers; Aug. 29: Secondary; Aug. 30: Kickers/Schedule.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Junior running back Zach Bauman is the face of the Northern Arizona program after have producing over 2,400 yards in his first two seasons and a combined 30 touchdowns. He enters his junior season among the returning rushing leaders in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and has made his mark in the school record books.
"He has been nothing short of amazing in his first two years," said Head Coach Jerome Souers. "For him to come in as a true freshman and play the way that he did and come back with a sophomore year and be that much more effective shows what his talent level is. He is 15-20 pounds heavier without any loss of mobility or speed or change of direction. He has positioned himself to have another great year."
Bauman ranked fourth in the country in rushing with over 1,400 yards and recorded seven games over 100 yards on the season in 2011. Running back coach Jimmy Beal says Bauman has added film study to improve his weekly performance against opponents gearing to stop him.
"He is reading defenses and understanding the coverage," said Beal. "He has really learned how to study an opponent. It is a big emphasis for us this year and finding out what defenses are trying to do and how they are trying to stop him. He is learning how guys read his body language and the different things he does on the field."
Bauman is well known by coaches across the country and within the Big Sky Conference as evident by his selection as a preseason candidate for the Walter Payton Award. He was also named to several preseason All-America teams.
"We don't face a better running back than Zach in my opinion," said Southern Utah Head Coach Ed Lamb. "You just have to put our video on from last year. In the span of two or three runs, he had a season worth of highlights and broken tackles. He is super explosive in the way he runs and has as good balance as any back I have seen. He bounces off tackles well and has good strength. He appears to be a humble hard-working guy. I say that because his team works really hard for him and his coaches are committed to him. The team works hard for him."
Bauman represented NAU at the Big Sky Conference Media Day event in Park City, Utah, last month, getting a chance to meet some of the defensive players who he will play against this season.
"As a linebacker, you are taught that running backs are your rival," said Northern Colorado linebacker Clarence Bumpas, who finished fourth in the nation in tackles per game last season. "He is one of the best I have ever seen. He is elusive. He is a hard-hitter and he runs down hill. He is destined for great things."
Bauman is not the only weapon in the Lumberjack backfield this season. NAU added California transfer Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson in the offseason to provide depth and experience behind Bauman. Deboskie-Johnson showed a powerful running style and ability out of the backfield in the passing game.
"He is a great asset to our program," said Beal. "He graduated from Cal and going for his master's here at NAU. His knowledge of the game is great. I would volunteer him to be my assistant coach right now. He is very detailed in his study and note-taking. He is a leader in my group."
Austin Shanks, who returned to the backfield in spring practice, gives NAU options and additional speed.
Junior college transfer Daniel Pipkin adds depth to the position and has shown his abilities in fall camp. The transfer from Santa Monica College rushed for over 500 yards on 85 carries with seven touchdowns last season.
"He is a tough runner and hard worker," said Beal. "He is the first ones in the meeting room and last one to leave the meeting. He is really going to help us and be as asset."
True freshman Casey Jahn is also in the mix. He was named the Arizona Republic's Small Schools (Divisions IV-VI) Player of the Year after becoming the first prep player in Arizona 11-man football history to rush for more than 7,000 yards in a career, finishing with 7,333 career yards and 107 touchdowns. He led the state of Arizona in rushing and scoring last season, rushing for 2,279 yards and 33 touchdowns during a 13-1 season as a senior.
All-Big Sky second team fullback Jake Hess returns for his second season after joining the program from Boise State last fall. He proved the fullback could be a valuable wrinkle to the offense and looks to make a bigger impact in 2012.
The success of the unit will still depend on Bauman, who is poised to have another big season and has put the work in this offseason to make the next step as a player.
"I have worked harder than I have ever worked before," said Bauman. "Every day I have done something towards football to better myself. I have become more of a student of the game and understand how the game is played. It is going to better me for a better season as a junior."