FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona linebacker unit has a double bonus this season. Defensive coordinator Andy Thompson leads the group, plus they house the team's leading tackler in Austin Hasquet.
"Our job is to get out there and stop our opponents," said Thompson. "I love the effort that the guys are showing every day, so we just need to keep up the good work and we'll be ready come game time. Saturdays become a lot easier when you're mentally and physically prepared."
Hasquet is a senior all-conference honoree and CFPA Linebacker Watch List candidate. He will be the leader of not only the linebackers, but the entire defense. The Peoria, Ariz. native led the Lumberjacks with 91 tackles last season, and was named the team's Defensive Outstanding Junior of the Year.
"I definitely believe that we're going to be strong," said Hasquet. "We're a lot farther ahead than what I thought we'd be at this point. My expectations are very high for this defense and I fully expect us to be just as good as last year if not better."
Hasquet started all 12 games last year and accounted for three of the team's 14 interceptions. He recorded eight or more tackles in eight games, was credited with five pass breakups, one sack, one quarterback hurry and 5.5 tackles for loss during the season.
NAU brings back two players other than Hasquet with linebacker experience – senior Craig Frum and junior Harrison Johnson. Frum returns to the field after an injury cut his season short last year. During his sophomore season, Frum recorded 34 tackles and appeared in all 11 games for NAU. Johnson saw significant playing time last season, in addition to registering 13 tackles and an interception. Johnson has appeared in 21 games during his time at NAU with three starts.
Jake Thomas transitions from tight end to linebacker. Thomas was a linebacker in high school, where he set the school record for sacks.
Key losses for the Lumberjacks are Ryan Reardon and Anthony Harrington, who completed their eligibility. Reardon was fifth on the team in tackles with 53, had 6.5 tackles for loss and recovered two fumbles. Harrington registered 38 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and a pair of sacks.