FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The offensive line is the bodyguard of the offense. Their job is to protect the quarterback and make room for the run game. The Northern Arizona offensive line is the glue that puts the brick wall together.
In 2012, the Lumberjack offensive line was solid in protecting quarterback Cary Grossart. He had a pass completion percentage of 66.7 percent for a total of 1,997 yards.
When it came to the run game, running back Zach Bauman rushed for 1,182 yards, while the Lumberjacks netted a total of 1,909 rushing yards as a team.
With quite a few underclassmen on the line, the Lumberjacks finished last season tied for sixth in the league in scoring offense with 31.6 points per game, fourth in rushing offense with 173.5 yards per game and seventh in total offense with 406.9 yards per game.
NAU finished 2012 ranked 36th in total offense in the Football Championship Subdivision, while Grossart ranked 22nd in the FCS in pass efficiency and Bauman 20th in rushing with an average of 107.45 yards per game.
The offensive line in 2013 will be much more experienced than the one in 2012.
"With four starters returning, it helps the newcomers learn by example," said offensive line coach Eric Reid. "A lot of these younger guys have an excellent opportunity to look at the guys over them to help them learn how to study the game.
Returning starters for the Lumberjacks at the line will be senior Kyle Walker and juniors Roy Garcia, Joe Gurski and Shane Moniz. Walker and Garcia started all 11 games for NAU. Gurski started 10-of-10 and Moniz started 8-of-8.
"This year we are a lot more athletic," Reid said. "We asked them to lean down and speed up, as far as their physical training goes. I think they're moving much faster than they were a year ago."
The consensus seemed to be similar when the players were asked the same question. "This year's O-Line is coming together more," said Garcia. "We're beginning to understand each other and operate as a unit. I think we're going to be really good this year."
When asked who the leader of the offensive line was, Coach Reid was quick to give an answer. "Without a doubt it's Kyle Walker." He's the only senior in the group, a very strong leader and a guy that everyone respects due to his great worth ethic. He's a very unselfish player."
With a few weeks left before the Lumberjacks hit the field, the offensive line will need to work on sharpening their technique. "We need to understand the ins and outs of our run and pass game," Garcia said.
The goals for the O-Line this season are quite simple, "Don't allow any sacks, get Zach as many yards as possible and to protect the quarterback," said Walker. "We've been playing really well together during camp and the fact that we're friends on and off the field really helps us out."
When asked what the offensive line needs to work on before the start of the season, Reid applied with one simple word "consistency."
The offensive line will take the field this season with one simple agenda, be the glue that keeps the Lumberjack offense ahead of the rest.
Position Preview Schedule
Aug. 14 – Offensive Line
Aug.15 – Tight Ends/Fullbacks
Aug. 16 – Wide Receivers
Aug. 17 – Running Backs
Aug. 19 – Quarterbacks
Aug. 20 – Linebackers
Aug. 21 – Defensive Line
Aug. 22 – Secondary
Aug. 23 - Special Teams