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 finished looking at the new players added through the transfer portal. This week let’s take a look at some brand-new faces that could become NAU staples for years to come.
Baylor Odom [6’5, 200 | DL | Jasper, AL / Jasper High School]
Odom, a defensive lineman out of Jasper, Alabama, comes into NAU as an accomplished defender out of 5A high school Jasper.
In his senior year, Odom racked up 41 total tackles, including five sacks and ten tackles for losses. On top of this, he scored two defensive touchdowns; both were interceptions for touchdowns. The second was in a 29-21 first-round loss to Moody High School.
Odom also played wide receiver for his team, although no statistics were listed on his MaxPreps page. However, on his hudl reel, he posted multiple clips of his snaps at receiver, all of which demonstrate the wheels this kid has.
On top of his speed, Odom possesses the ability to read the quarterback to see where the play is going. He used this to his advantage on multiple occasions that involved him stuffing a run play or halting the receiver early. Some snippets showed Odom laying the boomstick on the ball carriers, causing them to halt in their tracks and on one occasion nearly cough up the football.
The Lumberjacks already possess a vast amount of players on their defensive line but Odom’s versatility could prompt the coaching staff to move him elsewhere. One position that could work based on his size and abilities could be the linebacker position because he can catch the football as well.
Once spring ball rolls around we will know for sure what the staff decides to do with him.
Brodrick Stewart [6’2, 305 | DL | Arlington, TX / Mansfield Summit High School]
Stewart is another addition to the NAU defensive line who could make splashes this season.
He finished with 46 total tackles in his senior season, including nine tackles for loss and three sacks. Not only did he make tackles, but he also forced a fumble and recovered another loose ball.
The Mansfield Summit Jaguars finished 5-5 in 2022 and made the Texas 5A Division Two playoffs. They were eliminated in the first round 12-7 by the South Oak Cliff Bears. Stewart finished with eight total tackles and one tackle for a loss.
His hudl tape shows his power on the line. In nearly every clip Stewart was able to bowl through the defense to then finish off the play with a strong tackle. He was also able to pursue the ball carriers with some quickness and force them to make bad decisions.
Again, the Lumberjacks have an immense amount of talent on their defensive line so Stewart is another player who could see little playing time this season. However, his pure strength and power may make the coaching staff take a deeper look at how to fit him in the line rotation.
Braeden Kaczmarek [6’4, 260 | DL | Mesa, AZ / Red Mountain High School]
Kaczmarek is yet another addition to the defensive line and he has shown sparks of talent early.
The lineman out of Red Mountain High School in Mesa, Arizona helped lead his team to a 6A East Valley Regional championship, as well as the 6A Conference State Tournament semifinals in his senior season.
In his junior season, he finished with 29 tackles, nine of them being for losses and five of those being sacks. He also added a pick-six for good measure. The Mountain Lions also made the State Tournament semifinals that year.
Like the aforementioned Stewart, Kaczmarek excels in bullying the offensive line, as is apparent through his hudl clips. He also performs well in pursuit situations as his speed allows him to keep up with some of the faster running backs.
Judging where the staff will place these new linemen is difficult. Mainly because there are so many of them, but Kaczmarek may be in the same boat as Stewart and may not see a lot of playing time come the fall.
Will Wilson [6’3, 215 | LB | Tualatin, OR / Tualatin High School]
Wilson came out of a talented Tualatin defense that featured three Division I commits. In his junior season, he finished with 80 total tackles, four sacks and eight and a half tackles for losses.
In the 2021 campaign with the Timberwolves he led them to a 14-2 record and the team reached the OSAA 6A Championship game. The defense was nothing but lockdown with him at the helm, as a whole they held opponents to only 18.6 points per game.
However, Wilson’s senior season was cut short when he tore his ACL in the first game, rendering him out for the year.
If we look at hudl footage from his junior season though, he was a key piece of the Timberwolves’ stalwart defense. He excelled in following the plays all the way through multiple blockers and making the tackle at the end. The tackles he made were also solid wrap tackles, which is highly encouraging when coming to a Lumberjack team that struggled to make tackles at times.
Noting his injury, Wilson may not see any time on the field as he recovers and may be redshirted for his first year. Regardless, when he eventually does play snaps, they will be with the starters.
Brandon Boateng [6’4, 195 | WR |Santa Clarita, CA / Valencia High School]
Boateng is one of three pass catchers signed right out of high school to the Lumberjack roster, the other two being Myseth Currie and Blaise Nelson.
As a senior, Boateng caught 39 passes for 488 yards and eight touchdowns. He also was a return man, running back 10 kickoffs for 372 total yards and a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown. Following this season, he was named to the All-Foothill League first team, an honor awarded to the top players at their respective positions.
Valencia finished the regular season with a 5-5 record and reached the CIF Southern Section Division 4 State Tournament. They lost 43-17 in the first round, but Boateng finished with three receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown.
Speed is the name of the game for Boateng. His wheels give him the ability to flip the field at any given opportunity. That, combined with his size, allows him to make big body plays on many tough defenders and that is evident in his hudl tapes.
Depending on how spring ball goes, Boateng could see himself getting some first-string action based on nothing but his intangibles. However, he is still a freshman and there is always room to develop, so he will most likely play as a rotational WR3 come fall.
Myseth Currie [6’2, 175 | WR | Laveen, AZ / Cesar Chavez High School]
Currie is another wide receiver who shined in high school, albeit on a higher stage than Boateng.
For the 6A Cesar Chavez Champions in 2022, Currie caught 55 passes for 1068 yards and 15 touchdowns. These statistics earned him the honor of 6A Central Region Offensive Player of the Year. A standout performance from the season saw him catch 13 passes en route to 223 yards and two touchdowns versus Desert Vista High School.
He also played defensive back and was the punt/kick returner for his squad, which helped him achieve even more honors; All-Region First Team as a punt returner and All-Region Second Team as a kick returner and defensive back. In his career on defense, he finished with 30 total tackles and one interception.
As a result of Currie’s dominance at every position he played, the Champions made the 6A state tournament for the first time since 2019, although they were demolished by the no. 1 seed Casteel 70-30 in the first round.
Currie’s hudl showcases his speed and playmaking abilities. Route running is a forté of his, and multiple clips showed him using only his hips to throw defenders off balance and get open. Getting open is only half of the story though, as Currie also showed off his catching skills with one-handed grabs and catches over defender's heads, or what is referred to as, “mossing somebody”.
Like Boateng, Currie may fit in more as a rotational WR3 or WR4 because the top wide receivers, redshirt senior Jamal Glaspie and redshirt junior Coleman Owen, already have the top two spots on lock.
Adam Damante [6’2, 180 | QB | Gilbert, AZ / American Leadership Academy Gilbert]
Damante may be the most accomplished player coming out of high school because he led his team to a state championship.
In a season where he threw for 4769 yards and 59 touchdowns, the ALA Gilbert Eagles finished 8-2 and won the 4A Conference East Sky Region. They also clinched the No. 1 seed in the tournament and won their way to the top.
In the championship game, Damante threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns in the 28-14 win against Snowflake High School.
All of this success carried over to after-the-season honors, where Damante was named to the All-Region First Team and won the East Sky Region Player of the Year. On top of this, he was named a finalist for the Ed Doherty Award, an award given to the top high school football player in Arizona.
Throughout his whole career as an Eagle, he passed for 8772 yards in his three years on varsity, as well as 109 touchdowns. He also ran for 1047 yards with 15 touchdowns on the ground over the course of his varsity career.
All of this senior season success can be seen in his hudl tape, as with every other recruit covered here. Clips here show his ability to make good decisions and thread the needle between multiple defenders. He also has a strong arm and can launch the ball down the field at any time, given that he has time in the pocket to throw.
Damante will fit in nicely with the now-packed NAU quarterback room. He will likely be either redshirted or used potentially as the third string behind the more experienced Kai Millner and Daniel Britt.
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