NAU football is going to see a massive turnover in the 2023-24 season. The entire recruiting/transfer class of 2023 was released on Feb. 1, including 26 new members to the Lumberjack gridiron squad.
Each of these players has some sort of backstory or reason as to why they were recruited to NAU, whether that be their accolades in high school or their want for playing time at an up-and-coming Big Sky school.
Last week we started looking at the new players added straight out of high school. This week let’s continue to take a look at some brand-new faces that could become NAU staples for years to come.
Blaise Nelson [5’11, 165 | WR | Surprise, AZ / Valley Vista High School]
Nelson joins fellow freshmen Brandon Boateng and Myseth Currie as the new receivers signed to NAU straight out of high school.
He caught 51 balls for 661 yards and seven touchdowns in his senior year; a year in which his team went 7-3 and won the 6A Conference West Valley Region Championship. Nelson was named to the All-Region First Team as a receiver and as a kick returner following his senior season.
Winning the region championship also clinched Valley Vista a spot in the 6A State Tournament. Coincidentally, the 6A Tournament appearance was the first for the Monsoon since 2019, although they lost 46-0 in the first round to Pinnacle.
According to his hudl profile, he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash, which is speed comparable to the top NFL receivers today. This is apparent in the clips featured in the mixtape, as Nelson torches defenders and weaves through traffic to make something out of nothing.
Just like Boateng and Currie, Nelson will have a tough time breaking into the receiver rotation at NAU, but his blistering speed may help him slot in as an occasional WR4.
Dustin Reynolds [6’2, 225 | LB | Apple Valley, CA / Apple Valley High School]
Reynolds was a swiss army knife for the Sun Devils in his senior season. He played both running back and linebacker and showed out at both positions.
As a linebacker, he recorded 88 tackles with 21 tackles for losses, four and a half sacks and two interceptions. As a running back he finished with 397 rushing yards on 38 carries and scored six touchdowns, not to mention two receiving touchdowns on top of that.
He led Apple Valley to an 8-3 overall record and helped them reach the CIF Southern Section Division 2 Tournament. They lost in the first round to Inglewood, 35-21. Reynolds had 76 all-purpose yards; 63 rushing and 13 receiving, as well as a rushing touchdown.
Reynolds is a team player and it is evident in his hudl clips. He worked well alongside his teammates to read the offense and blow up plays together. Pair this with his strength and speed, and you have the potential for a defensive stud.
Reynolds will have the chance to play alongside a talented NAU defense this season. Depending on how he meshes with the current roster, the chemistry may lead Head Coach Chris Ball to consider plugging him into some defensive sets.
Porter Reynolds [6’0, 225 | LB | Queen Creek, AZ / Queen Creek High School]
Porter Reynolds, in no relation to the aforementioned Dustin Reynolds, also plays the linebacker position.
He finished his senior season with 115 total tackles, including seven tackles for losses, four sacks and three forced fumbles.
These stats helped him anchor a Bulldogs’ team that finished 6-4 in the regular season and reached the 6A Conference State Tournament. Queen Creek lost in the second round 24-14 to Pinnacle. Reynolds was named the Co-Region Defensive Player of the Year in the 6A East Valley Region.
His senior year was merely an upgrade to a stellar junior year, one in which he finished with 107 total tackles, four tackles for loss and one sack. He was named to the All-Region First Team and All-6A Conference First Team this season.
Like Dustin, he was also a running back and garnered 245 rushing yards and 23 receiving yards during his high school career to go with seven rushing touchdowns.
His hudl mixtape contrasts Dustin Reynolds’ to some extent. Porter’s clips showed him making more plays by himself by hawking the ball carrier down and blowing up pass plays. However, like Dustin, he is able to read the quarterback well and blow up plays when they are needed most.
Porter will have a harder time fitting into the linebacker rotation, but he may get some playing time off the bench if injuries happen, or if the Lumberjacks have a large point differential with which to try new things out.
David Spruiells [5’9, 170 | DB | Dallas, TX / South Oak Cliff High School]
Spruiells is another state champion joining the NAU squad this season. In fact, he has won two state titles.
In the 2022 campaign, he finished the year with 69 total tackles, six interceptions and four passes broken up (PBUs). He helped the Golden Bears finish 13-3 on the regular season and perfect in district play, 6-0.
This team then ripped off five straight wins to clinch back-to-back state titles, capped off with a 34-24 win over Port Neches-Groves in the championship game. Spruiells recorded 10 total tackles in that game.
In his junior year, when South Oak Cliff won the first of two rings, he finished with 76 tackles, two interceptions and two PBUs.
Spruiells is simply put a ball hawk. His hudl clips show him crossing the field to snag interceptions and make plays on the ball. He is also quick on his feet, which helps him cover lots of ground quickly.
The defensive back pool in Flagstaff is filled with many talented players, so it is hard to determine at this point if Spruiells will see any action. But again, spring ball has yet to happen and the coaching staff will have until the fall season starts to figure out how he fits in.
Kyler Wilson [6’0, 180 | DB | Montgomery, TX / Montgomery High School]
Wilson is another part of the trio of defensive backs coming straight out of high school, the others being the aforementioned Spruiells and Alex McLaughlin.
He finished his senior season with 52 total tackles, four of which were tackles for losses. He also intercepted two passes, broke up another 12 and blocked a field goal.
As a return man, he returned five kicks for 102 yards and four punts for 100 yards, including one for a touchdown. Wilson was named to the 10-5A All-District First Team at safety and Second Team as a returner.
This was all in his senior season, but his whole career at Montgomery saw him rack up some impressive statistics.
As a junior he recorded 56 total tackles with three fumbles forced, two fumbles recovered, two interceptions and another 10 passes broken up. He earned First Team All-District and All-County as a junior. As a sophomore, he had two pick-sixes and tied the school record with eight interceptions.
His ability to cover the middle of the field is well reflected in his hudl tape, where multiple clips show him coming across the field to make plays. Much like Spruiells, Wilson also is blazing fast and that is evident through the clips of him returning punts.
Again like Spruiells, the defensive back pool is nearly full in Flagstaff, and it will be hard for him to work his way into a starting role. The second or third team is more likely to be where Wilson ends up.
Alex McLaughlin [6’2, 190 | DB | Chandler, AZ / Hamilton High School]
McLaughlin, whose brother Trent is on the basketball team, is the final defensive back of the freshman trio that NAU added to the roster.
McLaughlin finished with 107 tackles as a senior, including 17 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He tacked on just about every other statistic you can think of on top of this: seven passes broken up, three interceptions, three blocked punts, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
As deserved, he was named to the First Team All-6A Premier Region.
The Huskies finished 8-2 in the regular season to earn a berth in the Arizona Open Division State Tournament, where they lost 45-35 to Saguaro in the first round.
His junior season was just as productive, if not more so. He had 80 total tackles with eight tackles for losses and two sacks. Add on four passes broken up, a blocked punt and a blocked field goal, and you earn some honors. McLaughlin was named to the All-6A Premier Region First Team and was given All-6A Conference Honorable Mention honors.
The Huskies finished 10-0 that season and reached the Open Division State semifinals, although they were upset by Saguaro, 31-24.
McLaughlin is a field general, as is shown by his hudl reel. Multiple clips showed him communicating with his defense to get in the right position to make the plays. He also showed he was able to make the plays if need be. Combine that with his intriguing speed and strength, and McLaughlin fits the makings of a solid defensive player.
Like both the other defensive players listed above, it will be hard for McLaughlin to get a starting spot, but being a second-string linebacker or defensive back is well within reach.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.