No other coach in Big Sky history has won more conference games than Northern Arizona's Jerome Souers. Heading into his 19th season, Souers has accumulated 70 conference wins. To add to his resume Souer's needs just five wins to become the Big Sky's all-time winningest coach, passing Chris Ault who won 111 games with Nevada.
In two of the last three years, NAU has gone undefeated at home during the regular season posting a 14-1 record in the Walkup Skydome. Playing at an elevation of 7,000 feet, the Lumberjacks use it to their advantage with a protect the home field mentality at all times. The 11-game slate features five home games once again with Eastern Washington and Montana both coming to Flagstaff.
Changing its offense last season moving to an up-tempo balanced attack with a pro style/no huddle concept mixed with the play of All-Americans Case Cookus at quarterback and Emmanuel Butler at wide receiver, NAU positioned itself for a Big Sky title and has those two key pieces coming back in 2016 to make NAU fans excited for this year. Another positive is the return of four of five starters on the offensive line led by seniors Jacob Julian and Eric Rodriguez
On the defensive side of the ball, NAU has senior linebacker Jake Thomas and senior cornerback Leandre Vaughn. A combined 20 starts between the two a year ago, the Lumberjacks have a tackler and pass defender ready to lead the charge. Up front, the return of two seniors who battled injuries last season gives NAU more experience than it may appear on the defensive line.
There's no doubt that NAU must fill the void at all of its kicking positions with the loss of an All-American to graduation, but there are a pair of incoming freshmen who look to be up to the challenge.
For NAU it will once again be about a Prepare, Practice, Perform mentality. This 1-2-3 combination will be the key to the Lumberjacks being successful in 2016. All the Lumberjacks need to do is stick to their C.O.R.E. values and the rest will fall in place.
• Northern Arizona returns the reigning Freshman Player of the Year in sophomore Case Cookus. A multi All-American in his debut season, Cookus finished the season ranked in the Top 10 nationally in the FCS in passing efficiency (2nd), passing touchdowns (2nd), yards per pass attempt (2nd), points responsible for (3rd), completion percentage (3rd), passing yards per game (7th), total offense (8th), and passing yards (9th). He broke an 11-year-old NCAA FCS freshman record for most touchdown passes in a season with 37; including the NAU season record. Cookus led the nation with the most touchdown passes in a single game with seven; where he led NAU to a 63-point showing over Northern Colorado. With the fewest interceptions (5) by any quarterback in the FCS with 3,000 or more passing yards, Cookus has a hefty resume entering his second season.
• Transfer Blake Kemp has joined the Lumberjacks after finishing his undergrad at East Carolina University. Kemp, a former high school standout at Hamilton in Chandler, led the Huskies to three straight state championships. Last season, Kemp completed 260 of 375 passes for 16 touchdowns. At ECU he threw for a total of 2,658 yards and an average of 241.6 yards per game.
• Junior Corbin Jountti is back for the Lumberjacks having tallied 378 yards on 78 carries in 2016 to go with six touchdowns.
• NAU's versatile back, senior Kendyl Taylor, had a great spring and has been an asset to the NAU offense since transferring a year ago from the University of Washington. The Chandler product had 52 carries for 249 yards and caught 21 passes for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
• Incoming freshman, Nate Stinson, the 2015 San Diego Section Offensive Player of the Year, brings speed and grit to the lineup. Stinson rushed for 1,989 yards on 204 carries for a section-leading 35 touchdowns.
• Let's not forget freshman Joe Logan, a multiple player of the year award winner in 2015, Logan rushed for over 5,500 yards at Estrella Foothills. After setting school records in the 100 meters and 4x100-meter relay, Logan's speed is an advantage that can't be denied.
Emmanuel Butlerull; Junior All-American wide receiver Emmanuel Butler had a breakout season in 2015. Butler registered 1,208 receiving yards to break a 16-year old NAU single season record. Not only did Butler's skillset allow him to race up the charts in receiving yards, but he also tied the NAU single-season touchdown receptions record with 15. His talents ranked him amongst the best in the FCS in receiving touchdowns (2nd), receiving yards per game (4th), and receiving yards (6th) to name a few.
• Juniors Elijah Marks and Hunter Burton add depth to the wide receiver group. Marks appeared in nine games a year ago and caught 26 passes for 293 yards and six touchdowns. Burton tallied a total of four catches for 86 yards and two scores on the season.
• Junior Patrick Baldenegro redshirted last season, but he returns to the tight end group bringing experience to a young unit.
• Sophomore tight end Jonathan Baldwin had a solid spring. He appeared in all 11 games last season on offense and special teams, and will compete for more playing time this season.
• A pair of all-conference players highlights an offensive line that returns four of five starters from a year ago.