FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona tight ends and fullbacks will have a familiar group of faces this season, after losing just one player. Position coach Craig Knoth returns an experienced core led by a group of upperclassmen.
"Our goal is to bring intensity and effort into everything we do," said Knoth. "I've had some great groups in the past, and I expect for us to continue the tradition."
For the fullbacks, NAU has all-conference honoree Nick Butier on the roster. Butier started in seven games, and appeared in 12 games.
"Nick's a guy that's a very smart football player," said Knoth. "He's very capable of running routes, and his versatility will be leaned on this upcoming season."
Seniors RJ Rickert and Beau Gardner are the veterans of the unit. Both bring experience to the field. Rickert appeared in 11 games last season, while Gardner appeared in all 12.
"We are fortunate to have a group of leaders that have played a number of games for us," said Knoth. "It's great to have players who I can count on to lead the way."
Sophomore Patrick Baldenegro was a bright spot for NAU last year, as he recorded seven catches for a total of 89 yards and a touchdown. He appeared in 11 out of 12 games, and was a steady threat against opponents.
"I'm looking for Patrick to build on a fantastic freshman year," said Knoth. "He was able to see significant playing time as a true freshman, and I expect him to improve even more during his sophomore year."
Junior Michael DeGroote will contribute to the tight end line up and even see some time at fullback. DeGroote gives NAU a steady group of returnees that will mentor a young group of newcomers.