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NAU 'Jacks loaded on offense for 'new' Big Sky
A lot has changed at Northern Arizona University in the last 12 months.
The school has a new athletic director along with new men’s and women’s basketball coaches.
The Walkup Skydome, the football team’s home field, underwent a massive overhaul.
One thing in Flagstaff stayed the same the last 12 months - just as it has the past 15 years: Jerome Souers is still the Lumberjacks head football coach.
Souers returns for his 15th season this year with a career 76-82 record. His team hasn’t qualified for the Division I-AA playoffs since 2003 and hasn’t posted a winning conference record since ‘07.
The coach, in the second year of a three-year contract, knows it’s time to win with a new regime in charge of the department.
“When we are in our meetings, we have a vision of what we’re trying to do and it’s encouraging,” Souers said about new AD Lisa Campos. “I say that with confidence and not just hope. It feels different.
“We’re excited to have the new staff on board and we’re trying to do our part with the standard of excellence they have set.”
Souers is set up to have a successful season. NAU returns senior quarterback Cary Grossart and junior running back Zach Bauman. The duo led a unit last year that ranked 14th nationally in total offense in Division I-AA.
Bauman led the Big Sky Conference with 1,434 rushing yards as a sophomore and added 352 receiving yards. He scored 16 touchdowns.
Grossart threw for 2,745 and 16 touchdowns and just seven interceptions as a junior. He also rushed for 298 yards.
He’s in his fifth year with the program and second as a starter.
“I’ve been around the program and seen disappointing year after disappointing year,” Grossart said. “We’ve always had the guys that can play; we just haven’t brought it all together.
“I really want this year to be different. In the past, guys have wanted to compete and win. This year, we want to win and win by a lot.”
The team will be competing in a new-look Big Sky this year. The conference added Cal Poly, North Dakota, Southern Utah and UC-Davis to complete a 16-team league.
The Lumberjacks play each of the four new schools, but don’t play traditional rivals Weber State, Eastern Washington or Montana State.
“It’s really weird,” Souers said. “You hate seeing the loss of tradition, but the games are more regional than they were. The families will get a chance to see the team more.”
The Lumberjacks open the season Aug. 30 at Arizona State.
By Daniel Berk, Arizona Daily Star