FLAGSTAFF — Monday marked the first practice of fall camp for the Northern Arizona University football team, and the first-year players were thrown into the fire.

 Last season’s Big Sky preseason favorites, the year ended with a 5-6 overall record, and the Lumberjacks are counting on an influx of youth to help in 2017.

Head coach Jerome Souers, who is in his 20th season at the helm, was impressed by the maturity of his first-year players — namely tight end Matt Kempton and wide receivers Justis Stokes and Chance Brewington.

“For true freshmen, they don’t look like true freshmen,” Souers said. “We’re getting some quality guys coming in. All in all, they fit right in. Usually there’s a bigger gap between the older guys and the younger pups.

“Those guys were in great shape,” Souers said of Kempton, Stokes and Brewington. “And that’s just three that are easy, but the same was true all over the place.”

Starting quarterback Case Cookus, who is a redshirt sophomore, missed the last seven games of 2016 with a broken collarbone but relished the opportunity to be back on the field with his teammates — and a chance to take some of the freshman under his wing.

Everyone did a great job today,” Cookus said. “Offense, defense — everyone was flying around making plays. The new guys got to learn some stuff and overall it was a good day today.”

There was no tackling on Monday, but the intensity was still present. Players sprinted from drill to drill and were sincere in their playmaking.

“I was really pleased with the details,” Souers said. “We didn’t have many penalties, we didn’t have many procedural issues for the most part. Guys knew where they’re supposed to be going, and with as many new guys as we have, that was important.”

The Lumberjacks continue fall camp through the rest of this week beginning  2:30 p.m. Tuesday. The team will hold a noon practice on Saturday, take Sunday off and continue with the 2:30 schedule for the rest of next week.

“I liked our attitude,” Souers said. “It was a fast-paced and well-moving practice and that’s what we want. I’m real pleased with the starting point. This gives us a good foothold to begin.”

NAU was picked to finish third in the Big Sky this season by league coaches and media. The Lumberjacks kick off its season on Sept. 2 with a road game at the University of Arizona.