FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Although Northern Arizona football is known for its defense, its other strong suit is its special teams. In 2012, the player who led the Lumberjacks in points was not a wide receiver or a running back; it was punter/kicker Andy Wilder.
It is also not a coincidence that Wilder led the nation in yards per punt with a 46.3 average. He had a total of 25 punts go for 50 yards or longer. Wilder's longest punt of the season went for 71 yards versus Southern Utah. In addition to his phenomenal punting ability, Wilder is also a pretty good field goal kicker. Last season Wilder made 38-of-39 PATs for a total of 68 points.
"I think Andy has a good chance of being a great punter," said head coach Jerome Souers. "He's better than he was last year. Andy is a great weapon for us due to his consistency."
Another athlete who has a great foot is sophomore Ryan Hawkins. With a year under his belt to develop, Hawkins has looked strong in preseason and is another valuable asset to the kicking unit.
"With all of the hard training and multiple kicks during games, we would like to be able to share duties amongst the guys," said Souers.
The lone freshman of the group is redshirt Brian Drulias. A product of Diamond Bar High School in California, Drulias has been able to learn from the unit and gain experience along the way.
Austin Shanks handled the majority of the return duties for the Lumberjacks last season, but with the graduation of the CFPA Punt Returner of the Year, NAU will have to look elsewhere. Ready to step up to the plate is Lucky Dozier, Randy Hale Jr. , Alex Tolliver, Alex Holmes and Zach Bauman. The kick returners have an even longer list of potential options with Hale, Tolliver, Jesse Brantley, Casey Jahn, Marcus Alford and Anders Battle all on the depth chart.
"We're trying to make use of the depth that we have at all of the positions," said Souers. "By being able to have multiple resources, this enables us to stay healthy and have more than one individual with game experience."
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