NAU football: locals step in following departure of Bauman

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                </div>  Zach Bauman was a local high-school standout when he was recruited to the Northern Arizona University football program following his graduation from Chandler’s Hamilton High School in 2010.  He […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Zach Bauman was a local high-school standout when he was recruited to the Northern Arizona University football program following his graduation from Chandler’s Hamilton High School in 2010.  He validated the philosophy of seeking out in-state talent by contributing 5,132 yards and 306 points in his four years in Flagstaff – more than any other player in school history.

Bauman is gone now, and his absence has been duly noted by those people making the pre-season predictions. Despite the fact that the 2014 Lumberjacks squad finished in second place in the conference last year and was given a No. 20 national ranking in the June Sporting News poll, both the pre-season media and coaches polls in the Big Sky Conference have them projected for just a fifth-place finish in the conference.

But the handful of NAU players that were just announced as selections to the Big Sky Preseason All-Conference teams will have a hand in helping the Jacks exceed those modest expectations.  And most of them, like Bauman, were mined from the pool of in-state talent.

R.J. Rickert and Jacob Julian were named to the first team on offense and Austin Hasquet and Marcus Alford earned inclusion on the first team defensive unit.  Roy Garcia was named to the second team and Ryan Hawkins to the third team.

Rickert is a senior from Mesquite High School in Gilbert and led all tight ends in receiving yards last season, catching 22 passes for 246 yards, while Julian is a 297-pound offensive lineman from Prescott’s Bradshaw Mountain High School who started all 12 games for the Jacks last year as a freshman.

Hasquet is a senior linebacker from Liberty High in Peoria and Alford is a junior cornerback who joined the program directly out of Rio Mesa High School in California.  Both were instrumental in a defense last season that led the conference in pass defense (190 yards/game), ranked second in passing touchdowns allowed (13), and led all FCS programs with eight defensive touchdowns.

With a team-high 91 tackles, Hasquet started all 12 games and also tied for most team interceptions with three. Alford recorded 20 unassisted tackles and 26 tackles in all in 2013, including five games in which he had three or more tackles.

On the down side to that, head coach Jerome Souers and his staff are tasked with replacing eight starters on defense, including the entire secondary.

Second-team selection Garcia is a 275-pound offensive lineman from Tempe’s Marcos de Niza High School who started 11 games as a sophomore and 12 games last year and will bring senior leadership to the field this season.  Third-team selection Hawkins was a two-time first team All-state kicker from Sunrise Mountain High School in Peoria who will be playing his junior year at NAU after starting all 12 games as a sophomore.

There is yet another local product ready to step into the void in the backfield left by Hamilton’s Bauman – but Casey Jahn won’t be expected to replace the almost 1,800 yards of offense that Bauman brought to the party last year.  In fact, it looks like it will take two running backs to replace the school’s all-time rusher.

Jahn is a junior from Northwest Christian in Phoenix who has played sparingly the last two years, serving as Bauman’s primary back-up last season when he rushed for 212 yards on 56 carries.  But he’s the only running back on the roster that has seen any college minutes at the position.

Jahn’s likely backfield mate will be a freshman, but one who has been on the NAU sidelines for a full year learning the system.  Corbin Jountti is a redshirt freshman from California that will balance out the backfield by providing a different style of play from Jahn.  At 185 pounds, Jahn is more of a scat-back that depends on open-field talent.  By contrast, Jountti is a 202-pound back that earns his playing time with a pounding style inside the tackles.

And behind the duo on the depth chart are a couple of true freshmen, Tyler Brown from Agua Fria High School in Avondale, and Marquice Paige, another California import.  Considering Souers’ preference not to play first-year freshmen unless it becomes necessary for survival, these two will likely get their schooling from the sidelines this year.

The on-field leadership will be in the hands of a couple of upper-classmen, the two quarterbacks that shared the duties last season.  And, yep, two more locals.  Kyren Poe is a junior from Hamilton High and Chase Cartwright is a senior from Conona del Sol High School in Tempe.

The Jacks went 7-1 in the Big Sky last season, were undefeated at home, and made the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

However, despite all the pre-season accolades, the 2014 squad will be hard-pressed to repeat that performance.

(Photo: NAU Athletics)