FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – When it comes to the defense, Northern Arizona football returns six out of its eight leading tacklers from a year ago. When it comes specifically to the linebackers, the key to being successful in Coach Andy Thompson's unit is consistency.
"You have to believe in the process of going to practice every day, watching film and doing all it takes. If you do these things, Saturdays become a lot easier," said Thompson.
With the return of All-Big Sky Honorable Mention honoree Austin Hasquet, the linebackers look to be in good hands this season. The Peoria, Ariz. native was the team's sophomore of the year last season on defense. Hasquet started all 11 games last year and is the top returning linebacker statistically as he tied for second on the squad last year with 61 tackles and a fumble recovery.
"We definitely have a lot of experience coming back," said Hasquet. "We have the consistency on defense that we need to perform well. With our passion and love for the game, our job is to get out there and stop our opponents."
Senior Ryan Reardon started all 11 games for NAU last season. He's a 2012 All-Big Sky Honorable Mention honoree and an added plus for the Lumberjacks. Reardon had a solid junior season with 41 tackles, in addition to being credited with two tackles for loss and a pass breakup.
"I think that anytime you have multiple players with a substantial amount of playing time under their belts it helps the team as a whole," said Thompson.
Craig Frum, Anthony Harrington, Harrison Johnson and Tevin Ray are a highly talented group of returners that will give the linebackers unit substantial depth. The previous playing experience that these players have, mixed with their intense work ethic increases the knowledge of the unit as a whole.
"All of our returners are guys that I feel have gotten a lot better since they've been in the program," said Thompson. "We don't have individuals. We have a unit that cares a lot about each other."
Others who will add to NAU's depth behind the defensive line include newcomers Derek Craig, Michael DeGroote, Thomas Hopp, Jabari Marshall and Chase Wilsey. Under the helm of Thompson, these newcomers have what it takes to battle any of the returners for playing time.
With a league full of talented running backs and receivers, the linebackers will need to contain their opponents in order to remain one of the best defensive units in the Big Sky.
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