FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona running backs unit is led this season by one of the greatest players to ever put on a Lumberjack uniform, All-American Zach Bauman. The Chandler, Ariz. native will lead the running backs as he looks to capture the Walter Payton Award.
Running backs coach Jimmy Beal has a lot to look forward to this upcoming season, as he has had the pleasure of coaching Bauman throughout his career at NAU. Beal has watched him grow into one of the best backs not only in NAU history, but in the Big Sky. Bauman has recorded three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons entering his final season and is a three-time All-Big Sky selection. He is just 119 yards shy of breaking the NAU career rushing record, as he looks to become the second Lumberjack in school history to win the Walter Payton Award. NAU's Archie Amerson won the award in 1996.
"I want Zach to continue doing what he has done," said Beal. "I want him to progress each season and continue to be a leader. He's an unselfish player that does whatever he needs to do to help out his teammates."
Although Bauman has been the go-to guy for NAU over the last three years, there's little doubt that this year's group of running backs are filled with explosive talent.
Backing up Zach this season will be sophomore Casey Jahn. He registered 306 yards on 41 carries with four touchdowns as a true freshman.
"I think one of our biggest goals this season is to help Zach get the Walter Payton Award," said Jahn. "This is his year to win it. We're going to push him in practice, and I will be there to give him a rest when he needs it."
"Having the versatility up and down the roster like we have has been a plus for us," said Beal. "It means that we don't have to depend on Zach for every play. We expect big plays from every running back that gets in the game."
This may be Bauman's last year as a Lumberjack, but a positive note for NAU is that they have a solid group of underclassmen that have plenty of time to make their impact in the next two to three years. The younger players have shown their willingness to want to learn from Bauman and from Coach Beal, as this can only help their future careers.
"The new guys have been really attentive and that's good," said Bauman. "No matter how good an individual may be, everyone has something that they still need to work on to get better as a player."
With the season less than two weeks away, Bauman will look to become the first Lumberjack in school history to record four 1,000-yard seasons as he sets his eyes on the Walter Payton Award.
Position Preview Schedule
Aug. 14 – Offensive Line
Aug.15 – Tight Ends and 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