Northern Arizona will be searching for a new offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and special teams coordinator for the second straight offseason.
First reported by Football Scoop and confirmed by sources Wednesday morning, the Lumberjacks elected not to bring back Brian Sheppard or Gary Hyman for a second season, after both arrived in Flagstaff from Indiana State a year ago.
Sheppard was hired in January to replace Tim Plough, who left for his alma mater UC Davis nearly a year ago, as the team’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Northern Arizona ranked No. 11 in the FCS with 301 passing yards per game, finished No. 22 in the FCS with 430.8 yards of total offense and scored 30.3 points per game, sitting No. 29 in the nation. However, Northern Arizona scored 20 points or less in three of its final four games, including just 10 in the first round of the FCS playoffs against San Diego, the lowest total in a home game since 2013.
Hired in May, Hyman’s special teams units struggled at times during the season, with Northern Arizona ranking 74th in net punting at 35.28 yards and 119th in kick return defense at 25.26 yards. Both numbers remained a struggle from the year before; the Lumberjacks were 28th with 36.98 yards in net punting and 121st with 26.70 yards allowed on kick returns in 2016.
Most notably, kicker Griffin Roehler struggled in his sophomore season after earning All-Big Sky first team honors, All-American honors and All-Freshman honors a year ago. Hitting just 13 of 20 field goals, Roehler also missed four extra points, finishing the year 42 of 46. The sophomore kicker's struggles primarily came up close, hitting just 5 of 11 from inside of 39 yards, but he made 8 of 9 from 40 or more yards. As a freshman, Roehler hit 13 of 16 field goals and 44 of 45 extra points, including his final 42 of the season.
Following Sheppard’s hiring a year ago, Lumberjacks head coach Jerome Souers said wide receivers coach Aaron Pflugrad was considered for the position, but with just two years as a position coach, the timing wasn’t right. With speculation tying Pflugrad to his alma mater Arizona State, Northern Arizona could potentially return to its own staff to fill the opening this time around.