Normally, when you see the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks on the schedule, you assume it's going to be an easy win for the Arizona Wildcats. While the Wildcats should win this game, it wouldn't be smart to overlook the Lumberjacks. Northern Arizona won their first two games and are currently ranked 24th in the FCS Coaches' Poll.
So which Lumberjacks should you be wary of? Here are five of them.
Case Cookus, QB, #15
The Lumberjacks have the 10th-most passing yards in the FCS and are second in passing efficiency. The man doing the throwing for NAU is Case Cookus. In two games, the redshirt freshman has completed 30 of his 42 pass attempts (71.4%) for 563 yards and five touchdowns. That's a staggering yards per pass average of 13.4. He also hasn't turned the ball either. Cookus isn't a "dual-threat" QB, but he does offer some mobility as evident by his 50 rushing yards and rushing touchdown he's had this year.
Bottom line, Arizona has struggled to get to the quarterback this year, and if that is again the case on Saturday, the Lumberjacks could put up a good number of points with Cookus under center.
Emmanuel Butler, WR, #8
Cookus' main target this season has been Emmanuel Butler. The 6-3 receiver has racked up 270 receiving yards and four (!) touchdowns in just two games, including a seven-catch, 216 yard game in the season opener against Stephen F. Austin. Oh yeah, he had three touchdowns in that game too. Cookus and Butler proven to have big play ability as three of Butler's touchdowns were on plays of 40+ yards.
Arizona's secondary was better against Nevada than it was against UTSA, but Butler's size could be an issue for the Wildcats' starting cornerbacks. They have to make sure they wrap Butler up in open space, as a lot of his yards have come off screen passes.
Casey Jahn, RB, #6
As well as the Lumberjacks have moved the ball through the air, they've shown they can run the ball too. Senior Casey Jahn has 206 rushing yards on 36 carries (5.8 yards per carry). In the second quarter in the game against Nevada, the Wolf Pack were picking up large chunks of yards on the ground against the banged up Wildcats' defense. Arizona got it fixed in the second half, but it's still concerning to see a team like Nevada have so much success running the football against them. With a passing game as good as the Lumberjacks', the Wildcats cannot let NAU establish the run on top of that.
Marcus Alford, CB, #22
Okay, we know the Lumberjacks can move the ball, but what about their defense? Their best defensive player is Marcus Alford, a senior cornerback. Last year, Alford was tied for the team lead in interceptions with three, and led the team in pass breakups with ten. He took one of his interceptions for a touchdown. Deservedly so, he was given NAU's 2014 Defensive Playmaker Award and was also on the First Team All-Big Sky. This season, Alford has one interception and 12 tackles, which is the second best mark on the team. Anu Solomon has yet to throw an interception this season, but he should be aware of where a playmaker like Alford is at all times.
Also, another name in the NAU secondary to keep tabs on is safety Eddie Horn. Horn had three picks last year too, as well as a team-high 88 tackles.
Jake Casteel, LB, #41
So, you can probably guess why Jake Casteel is on this list. He is the son of Arizona defensive coordinator, Jeff Casteel. It has made this week a little awkward for the Casteel family.
"I don't recall ever playing a team that has one of our coach's sons on their team," Rich Rodriguez said at his weekly press conference. "I know which team coach Casteel will be cheering for, but Ms. Casteel, I hope she's rooting for Jake. Jake is a great young man and I have known him for a very long time. He's playing very well up there. Jake Casteel No. 41, a linebacker, I noticed him right away."
Casteel has three tackles and a sack this year. Rich Rod also noted that he wanted Jake to walk-on at Arizona, but obviously that didn't happen.