FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – When it comes to the Northern Arizona secondary unit there's one thing that is for certain, they want to be the best in the Big Sky Conference. Period. With a lineup that includes some of the best players in the Football Championship Subdivision – Lucky Dozier and Anders Battle – the Lumberjacks seem to have all the tools in place to have another successful season.
"I think we've got very good depth this year," said safeties coach David Reeves. "Over the last few years Coach (Andy) Thompson has really emphasized going out and getting the best quality kid we can and to make sure that we have at least two solid guys at each position. We have about 6 to 7 guys that we can roll out at safety right now. We not only feel good about that fact, but very comfortable."
Dozier, an All-American preseason pick, will lead the unit after having a spectacular first season with the Lumberjacks starting all 11 games. He ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 57 and tied for the Big Sky lead with four interceptions.
In addition to Dozier, NAU brings back all-conference honorees Mike Dosen and Blair Wishom. Dosen tallied 31 tackles and had a 59-yard interception return, while Wishom ranked fifth on the team in tackles with 56 and had three interceptions for a total of 67 yards.
"Three of our safeties coming back have won all-conference awards," said Reeves. "This is a testament to the hard work that they put in every day. The newcomers know what they have to do to get playing time. For new guys to come in they have to realize as quickly as possible what the standard is. The veterans set the standard every day. They take it upon themselves to make sure that the new guys are doing things the proper way. As a coach, this is great to see."
Battle led NAU in 2012 with 64 tackles. The preseason All-American selection started all 11 games last season and was credited with six pass breakups and a 26-yard interception return. The senior also registered a career-high 14 tackles versus UC Davis to tie for fifth all-time in the NAU record books.
"Anders Battle is our leader," said cornerbacks coach Charles Huff. "He is a tremendous worker and a great competitor. His exceptional speed comes from being a former track and field athlete and we are expecting big things from him this year."
Battle, sophomore Michael Alford and juniors Randy Hale and Blake Bailey will be the go-to guys for Coach Huff. The experience that these four guys bring to the field will make it hard for anyone to take their place.
"Although this unit is extremely talented we do have a good group of young guys in Delvin Batiste and Mo White," Huff said. "They are two really good freshmen, but they will have to challenge the veterans for playing time."
The bright side for the Lumberjacks is that Battle is the only senior in this unit. He will be hard to replace next year, but NAU has the talent to regroup and refocus once Battle departs.
"This group of guys wants to be the best secondary unit in the Big Sky, as well as lead the league in every defensive category," said Huff. "They're quick, experienced and coachable. This may be the best secondary unit NAU has had in quite some time."
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