Wildcat Preview: Northern Arizona

Wildcat Preview: Northern Arizona

TUCSON, AZ - The 2017 football season has arrived.

The Arizona Wildcats will open their season this Saturday night at Arizona Stadium when they welcome in the NAU Lumberjacks for a 8 p.m., kickoff.

Arizona's strength should be in its running game. Last time out, a depleted unit set the school rushing record with 511 yards in a victory over ASU.

This year, a healthy Nick Wilson and J.J. Taylor make up a formidable backfield duo, while quarterbacks Brandon Dawkins and Khalil Tate now both have starting experience under their belts.

Up front, seniors Jacob Alsadek and Layth Friekh anchor an offensive line that is experienced, though not deep. The line has already taken a hit with the loss of reserve Bryson Cain to a season-ending ankle injury

Defensively, Arizona is significantly more athletic, especially in the secondary. The Cats are also bigger, and a bit deeper, up front. If a young linebacking corps develops, the defense should be able to hold its own and create more turnovers than a season ago.

While internally the program feels good about its 2017 season, Jerome Sauers' Lumberjacks will look to quickly spoil those aspirations. NAU will be motivated to avenge its last trip to Tucson that saw UA set programs record for scoring (77) and total offense (792).

The Lumberjacks will bring a few familiar faces with them on their trip. Linebacker Jake Casteel is the son of former UA defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, while freshman tight end Max Michalczik is the son of current UA offensive line coach Jim Michalczik.

UA leads the all-time series 13-1 and is 12-0 against the Lumberjacks at Arizona Stadium.

Copyright 2017 Arizona Athletics. All rights reserved.

David Kelly contributed to this story.