FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – It was the first outdoor practice of the season for the Northern Arizona football team and the friendly Flagstaff skies were good to the program. For 22 periods, the Lumberjack offense and defense took to the field hard, making it a positive practice.
"I think for everybody to have the chance to practice outside was a nice change of scenery. It's beautiful up here this time of year," said head coach Jerome Souers. "Anytime you deviate from the norm it gives you a since of distraction, but it was good to get out here with the sun in our eyes and the wind in our face to be able to adjust."
It took NAU a whole week to get outside, but it was well worth it for the Lumberjack fans in attendance. The defense never let up as it battled the offense all day. The quarterbacks were able to find a few open spots on defense translating into open routes, but both sides did what they had to do today.
"I think we have a lot of guys that like to compete," said defensive coordinator Andy Thompson. "Our defense as a whole has gotten much faster than what they were a year ago. The fact that they're coachable has helped the learning process go by quicker."
The defense returns 23 letterwinners and five starters from a year ago, which is a big reason why they're able to just get down to it. The speed of the secondary was noticed the first week of camp, with the playmakers giving the NAU receivers a hard time on the routes every day. No ball was an easy ball if you were wearing a white jersey.
The defense has one goal. To be consistent.
"You're always ahead when you have more guys that have played together," Thompson said. "The goal is to be as consistent as we can. We're learning how to do that. Being able to go against a great offense everyday helps make us better."
Veteran play, mixed with an improved work ethic across the board is just what the Lumberjacks need to be successful this season. The first week showed that when healthy and energized, the NAU defense can be very scary. An offense that has added a few Division I transfers to their side of the ball, is proving that when you look left to right there's more options than any defense would want for you to have.
"I like our conditioning," Souers said. "The coaching staff has been able to tell that the guys worked hard this offseason, because we've been able to get through more drills than in the past this first week."
For an offense that produced 5,179 yards last season, NAU needs to be able to have options for every scenario that may evolve.
"Adding Blake Kemp, a senior, to the roster really brings us experience," Souers said. "The quarterbacks have been practicing hard and working together. When you mix Blake with Case (Cookus), Cole (Norris), and Hunter (Correll), the overall talent of the unit continues to get better every day."
Two-a-days begin next week for NAU. Morning practices begin at 9:30 a.m., with the afternoon practices starting at 4 p.m. The Lumberjacks have 21 days before they kick off the season at Arizona State on Sept. 3.
Monday, August 15th, 2016
9:30 - 11:30 AM Practice #7 – Full Pack – Upper Fields
4:00 – 6:00 PM Practice #8 – In the Dome
Tuesday, August 16th, 2016
9:30 AM – 12:00 PM Practice #9 – Upper Fields
Wednesday, August 17th, 2016
9:30– 11:30 AM Practice #10 – Full Pack – Upper Fields
4:00 – 6:00 PM Practice #11 – In the Dome
Friday, August 19th, 2016
9:30– 11:30 AM Practice #12 – Full Pack – Upper Fields
4:00 – 6:00 PM Practice #13 – In the Dome
Saturday, August 20th, 2016
3:00 – 5:00 PM Practice #14 – Scrimmage – Full Pack – In the Dome
Monday, August 22nd, 2016
9:30– 11:30 AM Practice #15 – Full Pack – Upper Fields
4:00 – 6:00 PM Practice #16 – In the Dome
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016
9:30 AM – 12:00 PM Practice #17 – Upper Fields
Wednesday, August 24th, 2016
9:30 AM – 12:00 PM Practice #18 – Upper Fields
Thursday, August 25th, 2016
4:00 – 6:00 PM Practice #19 – Scrimmage – Full Pack – In the Dome
Friday, August 26th, 2016
9:00 – 11:00 AM Practice #20 – Upper Fields
Saturday, August 27th, 2016
9:00 – 11:00 AM Practice #21 –Upper Fields
Sunday, August 28th, 2016
2:00 – 4:30 PM Practice #22 –Upper Fields
*Times and location subject to change