2024 Northern Arizona Football Preview

Hannah Johnson (NAU Athletics)

2023 Record: 5-6 (5-3 Big Sky)
Returning Starters: 8 (4 Off, 4 Def)
2023 Offensive Rank (YPP): No. 42
2023 Defensive Rank (YPP Allowed): No. 76

Returning All-Conference Players: Jonny Bottorff (2nd Team; OL), Alex McLaughlin (2nd Team; DB),

Notable Incoming Transfers: Jeremiah Katt (Chattanooga; OL), Nahamani Harris (Texas Southern; DB), Joe Brown (Northern Colorado; DL), Tausagafou Ho Ching (Houston Christian; DL), Ralph Frias (Utah State; OL), Ammon Allen (Arizona; LB), Jerry Johnson III (Air Force; DB), Ta'ir Brooks (New Mexico; WR)

The 2024 season is expected to be a rebuilding season for the Lumberjacks. Northern Arizona fired head coach Chris Ball after five seasons despite Ball leading the Lumberjacks to their best season during his tenure, including wins over three ranked teams. Despite the success in the conference, Northern Arizona has not made the playoffs since 2017, and the program decided to go in a different direction.

Northern Arizona announced former Pittsburg State head coach Brian Wright as the new head coach on Dec. 3. Wright had an extremely successful run at Pittsburg State, going 33-8 over four seasons. He also brings FCS experience, having served as an assistant at Youngstown State for eight seasons and Montana State for two seasons.

Despite his success at Pittsburg State, Wright will face many challenges over his first season in Flagstaff. The Lumberjacks have lost 15 players to the transfer portal and only return four starters on each side of the ball, the lowest number of returning starters in the Big Sky.

The good news is that quarterback Angel Flores returns to lead the Northern Arizona offense. The redshirt sophomore played in seven games and started the final three games of the season. He led the Lumberjacks to wins over Northern Colorado and Eastern Washington. Flores threw for 634 yards and five touchdowns while showing flashes that he could be the future at quarterback. Another important offensive starter is center Jonny Bottorff. Bottorff earned second-team All-Big Sky honors in 2023. Offensive lineman Jeremiah Katt was a massive portal addition for the Lumberjacks after playing over 800 snaps at Chattanooga last season.

The defense will be led by sophomore safety Alex McLaughlin. McLaughlin earned Freshman All-American honors last season and led the team with 71 tackles. Cornerback Zach Lewis is expected to be another top contributor at defensive back after recording 47 tackles and six pass breakups. The Lumberjacks added multiple transfers that should compete for starting spots immediately, led by Texas Southern defensive back Nahamani Harris.

The biggest goal for next season will be building a solid foundation for what this program wants to be over the next few seasons. Northern Arizona will have a young roster with plenty of potential, and there is a good chance that the Lumberjacks will build momentum for a promising future.

2024 Northern Arizona Football Schedule

Timothy Rosario