FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona football team boasts one of the best secondary units in the Big Sky Conference. Under the guidance of veteran safeties coach David Reeves and new cornerbacks coach TJ Rushing, the Lumberjacks have showed solid progress in fall camp.
Two of NAU's top four tacklers – Lucky Dozier and Blair Wishom – leave a gap for the Lumberjacks, after recording 77 and 59 tackles apiece last season.
"We lost a lot of guys," said Reeves. "Our experience comes back with Shawn Sharkey and Rob Watson. Those guys have been helping the younger guys get acclimated to everything. It's nice to have a pair of seniors on board, but it's going to be a maturing process all through the season."
Anders Battle completed a stellar career for NAU, but on the bright side the Lumberjacks still have two more years with Marcus Alford. The junior started all 12 games last season, and came away with 22 tackles and a trio of touchdowns. Alford was named the team's Defensive Outstanding Sophomore of the Year and earned All-Big Sky Honorable Mention accolades.
"Marcus is a great player, as people can see from all of the accolades," said Rushing. "What separates him from the rest is that he does it day-in and day-out; that's what makes him great. He's a leader and an extremely smart football player. The guys know they can depend on him."
Seniors Randy Hale and Blake Bailey give NAU the leadership and experience that the unit needs. Both appeared in all 12 games for the Lumberjacks last season, and have numerous starts to their resume.
"Marcus, Randy, and Blake are all doing a great job of bringing the younger guys up to speed," Rushing said. "They're showing the young guys what it takes to win games. They know exactly how hard it is to win and they're putting in the work in order to make sure that we win."
Coach Rushing also has Louis Collins, Mo White III, Chad Bennett, Cole Sterns, and Wesley Sutton. With plenty of talent to go around, the young guys are maximizing their exposure when they get the chance and taking as many reps as possible to be game ready.