It is that glorious time of year. College football is back, and first up on the docket for the Arizona Wildcats are their neighbors from Flagstaff, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks.
And that means taking a look at five NAU players who Wildcat fans should know for Saturday’s matchup.
Case Cookus, QB
We’ll start with the Lumberjacks’ signal caller, Case Cookus.
The Southern California passer was named FCS Freshman of the Year after the 2015 season, and ooking at his stats, it isn’t hard to imagine why.
Cookus finished his first year completing 68.9 percent of his passes for 3,111 yards, along with 37 touchdowns to just five interceptions.
Unfortunately for him, his second season at NAU was derailed by injuries. Cookus was limited to just four games in 2016, but still threw for 1,173 yards and 13 touchdowns with only one interception.
The good news for Cookus is he was granted a redshirt year, and will look to bounce back in his second go-round as a sophomore in 2017. Arizona’s secondary may be tested with his skills as a passer, but much will depend on the UA’s pass rush.
Emmanuel Butler, WR
There is little doubt that Cookus’ main target on Saturday will be Butler, NAU’s leading receiver last year.
Butler enters the 2017 season ranked fourth in the NCAA in career receiving yards per game (71.9) and receiving yards (2,446).
Butler finished 2016 with 1,003 yards on 69 catches and nine touchdowns.
The Phoenix native checks in at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds so he’ll be a load for Arizona’s secondary, and it should be a good test for UA cornerbacks Jace Whittaker and Lorenzo Burns.
Jake Casteel, LB
If this name looks/sounds familiar, it’s because Jake is the son of former UA defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. As mentioned our first look at NAU, Casteel has played in every one of NAU’s games over the past two seasons.
That leadership and experience will only help the Lumberjack defense and Casteel will be one of the players at the forefront on Saturday.
The Salpointe product finished the 2016 season third on NAU in tackles with 67. He also had 2.0 tackles for loss, including a sack, and three pass breakups.
Clarence Smith, DE
Smith transferred from Utah last season and was able to play in 11 games for NAU.
The senior checks in at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, so he is a smaller defensive end.
One thing Smith does have going for him is since he played at Utah, he has seen the Wildcats in action before. It’ll be interesting to see if he’ll be able to handle Arizona’s big tackles.
Smith has 20 tackles, including three sacks last season
Elijah Marks, WR
We’ll finish this list with another pass catcher. Marks, who is 6-foot-1, was NAU’s second leading receiver last season.
He tallied 770 yards on 43 catches while hauling in seven touchdowns.
Marks, along with Butler, is another test for UA’s young secondary.
Marks was on the All-Big Sky Third Team last year and had 194 all-purpose yards in NAU’s loss to the Arizona State Sun Devils last season.
He also averaged 23.3 yards per kick return in 2016.
Honorable mention: Joe Logan, RB
Logan was an honorable mention on the All-Big Sky team last year, as he rushed for a team-high 726 yards on 6.3 yards per carry.
In total, Logan had over 1,000 all-purpose yards and was a member of HERO Sports’ FCS All-Freshman Team.
Saturday’s game is set for 8 p.m. MST at Arizona Stadium. It will be televised and live streamed on the Pac-12 Networks.