Head Coach Jerome Souers
I start my 18th year at NAU and we're celebrating 100 years of NAU football marks an exciting time.
I really believe we are prepared to have a great year. Defensively we are going to have a lot of new faces in our lineup. Our back end we have a lot of new faces along with Marcus (Alford) and some of the returning players.
Offensively we've evolved and have made some changes in the offseason with Tim Plough named offensive coordinator and Aaron Pflugrad as the wide receivers coach. Aaron brings a lot of expertise and energy to the wide receiver position. Tim Davis is also a new addition to our staff. He's the third offensive line coach in three years.
On offense we are going to be more up-tempo and spread the field. The tight end group is very versatile. Our receiver core is as deep as it's been in my tenure. For the evolution of our offense we are going to utilize as many weapons as we possibly can. We want to create more shots on goal. The way that college football has gone we need to be a part of that evolution. We're excited about our kicking game with Ryan Hawkins and I'm excited about what our special teams can look like.
Our opening game is at Stephen F. Austin. One thing about our football team is we have developed a strong chemistry. I know this football team has the bonds that will stick together and pull through. We've worked a lot on our attitude in the offseason.
(On his senior season)
It's my last year and I'm going to try and go out with a bang and try to increase my stats from last year. I know I only had 20 punts and our offense is going to be rolling so hopefully I don't have to punt that much. I'm going to do my best and see how it goes from there.
(Preview on the specialists)
We are a very tight knit group. When it comes to our long snappers, we've got three great ones that are all competing for that one starting spot. All of them have been doing well in camp so it's going to be a tough decision.
(On the playoffs two years ago)
It's a huge motivating factor because we had a really good chance to make the playoffs last year and it didn't work out how we planned. We've worked really hard in the off season and we're trying to get a ring.
(On the running backs)
(On last season)
As far as individual accolades go, I don't really think too much about it. The team is what matters to me.
(On the playoffs two years ago)
It's a huge motivation, basically we have to learn from our mistakes and being the senior heavy team we are, I think we have the guys to learn and we won't be complacent like last year.
(Preview of the offensive line)
The offensive line this year is probably one of the most talented ones I've seen since my time here. We've got Eric (Rodriguez) who is probably played in more games than most people on our team. (Jacob) Julian had an injury last season but this year is going strong. (Tyler) Shank is doing unbelievable, surprising me every day, and then Blake Porter to be a true sophomore at center is something that's almost unbelievable at this level. Our goal this season is five yards a carry per run and zero sacks. That should be pretty fun for us.
(On having an experienced line)
It definitely helps a lot with guys just getting in for playing time and then also whenever we get the opportunity to get younger guys in, Coach Davis does an extremely good job of getting guys in there. He wants the five best guys out there at all times, but he's not afraid to throw a younger guy in there if needed.
(On Coach Davis)
He's extremely knowledgeable. It's almost like he throws so much knowledge at you, you just have to pick apart the pieces and write it down. He's always asking 'hey do you got me,' but the knowledge that man has, if I could just get into his mind for five minutes, it would probably make me a way better player.
(Preview on linebackers)
We're a pretty young group this year. We've got some guys that played last year coming back. We've got Jake Thomas and Delvin Batiste coming back. I think we'll have a solid group this year with new guys stepping up like Jake Casteel who redshirted last year, Xavier Stephens who will be back from injury, but I think we'll have a good physical group, really talented who are ready to work and get after it this year.
(On leadership role)
This year I have to be more vocal to show the younger guys the ropes and how we do it. I learned a lot from Austin (Hasquet) last year. He taught me a lot about how we do things at NAU and how Coach Thompson likes things done. I've stepped into that role of helping out the younger guys. When the younger guys are tired at camp, I just try and keep them going, get them in their playbooks so we can be as close to perfection as we can.
(On defensive unit)
This year we are a physical team. We have a lot of guys who can fly around and make some big game changing plays. We have a lot of new faces on defense but to describe our defense I would say we are a really physical unit.
(On the defensive unit)
We have a lot of depth in the d-line position this year and with that comes a lot of competition. We have a lot of guys pushing for playing time and starting spots. Nothing is really set in stone for us yet because we have so many young guys and veterans competing against each other and getting ready for our season opener.
(On being injured last season)
I feel much better than I did after the injury last year. I'm really focused on staying healthy this year. The best way to make plays is to be on the field so I have to make that a priority of staying healthy and being ready for each and every game. Looking into the senior year, I'm very excited, we have a great group of guys and seeing a completely new unit from when I came here four years ago. It's very exciting to see how the position has developed and how competitive these guys are, and just really excited for the season to come.
(About strides in the department/dome atmosphere)
It's huge. We obviously couldn't do anything we do without the department and how well they've done at getting people in the seats and filling up our Dome. Having the advantage of that noise when we're on defense really changes the ball game and tips the scales in our favor. We love having people here supporting us, it really makes a difference.
(On wide receiver unit)
We have a lot of guys coming back; it's really good to have Marc Cooper and Dejzon (Walker) coming back. The dudes have been working hard the entire offseason. Our young guys stepping up, we had Emmanuel (Butler) and Elijah (Marks) who had a huge impact last year. Hunter Burton made a splash for us in the spring. We have a well-rounded group of guys I'm excited to play with.
(On growth from the freshmen)
They've had tremendous growth. It was before they got to campus really; it was that summer before we tried to help them learn the offense and pretty much told them they would have to make a huge impact for us and play a huge role. From that first game, until now, I think they've matured immensely.
(On differences in the offense this year)
More scoring, I'd say the play clock is something that we are going to take advantage of. We are going to be on the ball as quick as we can, catching the defense off-guard and making sure that the guys on the field for defense are way more tired than the guys that we can sub in on offense. So it's just going to be a lot more exciting.
(On being the face of the team/leader)
I have a much more unselfish outlook this season. I've never been a selfish guy but this year I'm really about just the wins, the team and being a leader. We have some young guys especially in our secondary that I have to help lead. The coaches really harped on me and put that on me to be a good leader this year.
(On corner backs)
Expectations are just as high as they have been in the past. Last year we had Randy (Hale), Blake (Bailey) and myself. I feel like at Northern Arizona we have a tradition of having a good secondary year in and year out. We have a few good guys this year, we have Wes Sutton who is a true sophomore, he played a little bit last season. We have Maurice Davison, a true freshman from California is very talented. He's gotten some reps with the starters already this camp. Cole Stearns, redshirt freshman, also a very talented athlete and Maurice White - those three guys they will all play and contribute this year. It will be interesting to see how good they do.
(On Coach Brown)
Coach Brown came from the University of Oregon and their tempo and their work ethic is crazy out there. He's helped bring that to us. He's pushing us a lot. There will be days where I think I had a really good practice, and we come in to watch film, and he has 20 things I did wrong. Everyone has really responded well to him.
(On not making playoffs last year)
We got our feet wet a little bit in the playoffs two years ago. Last year didn't work out like we wanted it to but we feel that we've put in the work this offseason and we have the talent on our team to do special things this year and to have one of the most special teams that NAU has had in a long time. We are very excited. We have a very deep team this year, so I think that will help us in the long run also.
(On coming back from injury)
I'm feeling great. I was here all summer, the way this offense is up-tempo, I'm in the best shape of my life right now. I'm just ready to get back on the field and play a different opponent again. It's been over a year since I've played someone else other than this team. I'm just excited to get back and play in some games for the 'Jacks.
(On up tempo offense)
Everyone can expect that we are going to attack. We aren't going to sit back on our heels this year. We're not going to let the defense bring it to us. Every game we're going to have an attack mentality, we're going to go out there and run as fast as we can and get as many plays as we can in each and every game.
(On group of tight ends)
The tight-ends/fullbacks group is really close, maybe one of the closest on the team. We hang out every day. We've got guys like Nick Butier who's got great experience and a younger guy like Patrick Baldenegro who brings a lot of experience to the field as a true junior. Then we have four freshmen and Bridger (Rodoni) who is going to be a junior this year too. So we've got some young talent, but definitely have the leadership and as a whole we're a really close group. You can expect big things from us this year.
(On going into his last season)
I'm very excited for this year, and as a group we have really high expectations to be explosive especially with our new offense. We have a good group, Corbin (Jountti) is going to be a great running back who is a redshirt sophomore this year, and we expect some good things out of him. We also have some other guys from other positions coming in to play running back, so there's going to be contributions from a couple different people and we have high expectations for ourselves.
(On adapting to the new offense)
Hopefully this year we are spreading things out, having more of a passing attack. Things will open up for the run a little bit more, we have some more explosive plays, so that's a big thing for us. We want to not only have the four-to-five yard runs treading out and running through linebackers but we want to be able to run through and break off, juke out a few safeties, and go for 40, 50 yards. That's the plan and we are excited for that.
(On being able to bust open some big runs)
This year our offensive line is all healthy so far which is great, and they're just experienced good, strong players. Obviously Nick (Butier) and RJ (Ricker) are also blocking for us and they're great players. I have full confidence that we can reach that goal.
(On group of safeties)
We're on the back end of the defense and big plays are up to us. We're coming in to attack this season. Darius Lewis and LeAndre Vaughn give us a lot of depth this season. We intend on backing up the defense on our end and not giving up big plays.
(On his growth at NAU last year)
I learned a lot from film study. Every opponent in the Big Sky is different. I approach every weekend in a different way. There are some weekends that you get a little more pumped for whether it's a rivalry or a big game for the standings. The mindset is to treat every game like a championship.
(On team's motivation this year)
We are really motivated because we feel we should've won the games that we didn't. We let some teams come into the Dome, we lost a game at home we needed last year. That's all the motivation we need and we've already taken the right steps we've needed to start the year with a bang.