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Local talent highlights 2011 NAU recruiting class

The NAU football team accomplished two things on Wednesday.

First, the Jacks brought in one of the finest recruiting classes in recent memory. Second, NAU has taken a huge step toward building its fan base for NAU football.

How did the Jacks do this? By doing something they should have been doing for years, signing an Arizona prep heavy recruiting class. The Lumberjacks signed 17 players to letters of intent this year. Eleven of those 17 played high school football in the Grand Canyon state.

Signing that many Arizona kids has been unheard of for a NAU team. Arizona high school products only made up a third of last year’s football roster.

In the past, most of the Jacks recruiting efforts have been spent in Southern California, trying to snag those guys who have slipped under the radar. But with a more talented high school scene this year in Arizona, the Jacks shifted their focus and came up big in-state.

On the offensive side, the Jacks received commitments from every position but running back. The offensive line additions of Centennial’s Jake Abbott and Wickenburg’s Lee Guenther could have the most immediate impacts.

Abbott played center in high school but could probably play at guard and tackle too. He was one of the leaders of a Centennial team that went deep in the playoffs and could play next season as a true freshman.

Guenther could also see some time next year. At 6′ 7″ and 235 pounds, coaches like his initial size and speed but also want him to bulk up some during the summer.

The Lumberjacks signed a pair of local tight ends in RJ Rickert from Mesquite and Dejzon Walker from Basha to help fill the void at the position.

Rickert is a true tight end at 6′ 3″ and 230 who can catch the ball, block and should be the tight end of the future.

Walker is a different story. He’s about the same size as Rickert but has the speed of a wide receiver. Look for Walker to be moved to wide out and play a fast, physical game on the outside.

Chaparral wide receiver Alex Holmes adds an underneath dynamic to the NAU passing game. Holmes is not very big but is very quick; he’ll be an ideal slot/possession receiver.

One of the more interesting signings for NAU was that of Hamilton quarterback Kyren Poe. He only started one full season but had great success at the helm of maybe the best high school team in the state.

However, there are still some questions about his skills considering that he had a great supporting cast that could cover some of his mistakes. This is a good signing though, as in the past NAU would have lost Poe to someone else or wouldn’t have even tried to recruit him. He won’t play next year and might redshirt but he was the potential to grow into a Jason Murrietta type dual-threat quarterback.

Defensively, the Lumberjacks loaded up on some of the best local linebackers.

Trevin Ray from Centennial is coming off a senior year where he recorded 91 tackles and two sacks. He was a captain and one of the backbones on a very good Centennial defense. A very smart player who was also recruited by the Ivy League, Ray will play at the outside spot.

Austin Hasquet from Liberty and Harrison Johnson from Greenway are both physical and athletic linebackers, they’re both pretty smart too. Hasquet and Johnson both carry 4.0 GPA’s and are at the top of their graduating classes.

North Canyon’s Anas Hasic is the diamond in the rough signing of this year. Hasic was one of the more exciting high school players this year as a wide out and safety. He was on his way to breaking some receiving records before an injury to the starting quarterback forced him to take over at QB and run the wildcat.

Coaches say he will play safety at NAU but don’t be surprised to see him returning kicks and punts or even on the offensive side of the ball at some time.

The Jacks made a huge splash in the state of Arizona on Wednesday. The quantity and the quality of the athletes that NAU signed from the state should be the trend and not the exception.

Local athletes and coaches should take notice of NAU’s efforts to extend local kids playing careers. The more Arizona players that NAU has on its roster, the more the interest and fan support will increase about the team.

This recruiting class is something to be excited about. With the Skydome renovations expected to be finished by the start of next season, this is the perfect time for this type of local talent movement.

In one day the Jacks bolstered their roster with talented local players and might have laid the groundwork for a fan support rejuvenation that has been long overdue in Flagstaff.

Not a bad day, eh?