The Northern Arizona Lumberjacks will begin the 2016 season ranked No. 18 in the FCS preseason poll, STATS announced on Monday.
NAU opened atop the Big Sky preseason coaches and media polls and will begin its campaign by visiting the ASU Sun Devils in Tempe, Ariz., on Sept. 3.
The Lumberjacks began camp Monday at the Walkup Skydome. They return 37 letterwinners and eight starters from the 2015 team that went 7-4 and a perfect 5-0 at home.
Four other Big Sky teams were ranked in the national preseason poll: Montana (14), Eastern Washington (15), Portland State (17) and North Dakota (19). The poll is conducted by media relations directors, broadcasters and reporters.
Northern Arizona hasn’t finished atop the Big Sky Conference since 2003.
Quarterback Case Cookus is among the preseason all-conference team players for NAU. He won the Jerry Rice and FCS Freshman of the Year honors following a 2015 season in which he amassed 3,117 yards, 37 touchdowns on a 69-percent completion rate. Cookus threw just five interceptions last year.