FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The day for Northern Arizona football to begin its spring practice slate finally arrived. The Lumberjacks spent two hours on the upper practice fields today adapting to a new roster, coaching staff, and playbook.
"We had the first day jitters but I expect dramatic improvement over the next few weeks," said head coach Jerome Souers. "What I did like was our positive energy and attitude today. I like to see that in the players. It's nice to see the competition at a high level."
One of the players that could not wait to get on the field today was sophomore All-American quarterback Case Cookus. The all-conference performer was sidelined four games into the 2016 season and has been itching to get back on the field.
"It feels great to be back on the field," Cookus said. "My favorite part is being back around the guys. I really missed the comradery and being on the field with them rather than on the sidelines. I liked the way the team looked today and we just have to continue working hard."
Cookus's primary target is All-American wide receiver Emmanuel Butler. Butler is one of seven starters returning on the offensive side of the ball for the Lumberjacks and he has not missed a beat from the fall season. A new addition to the coaching staff is offensive coordinator Brian Sheppard, who joined NAU from Indiana State.
The Lumberjacks have three starters returning on defense, as they also had a change on its coaching staff with the hiring of Vernon Smith Jr. as its defensive secondary coach. Smith, a former Big Sky performer at Montana, brings a great secondary knowledge to the Lumberjacks playbook. He spent the past two seasons at Portland State.
With the preparation for the 2017 already in the works, ROOT SPORTS and the Big Sky announced today the 2017 Big Sky football broadcast schedule. Northern Arizona's game on Nov. 4 at Montana was selected to be televised by the network.