An unexpected departure at quarterback for Muskingum University has opened the door for another Ohio Valley product.
Barnesville grad Dalton Smith had started every game a season ago for the Muskies, but moved to Florida over the summer with his family.
Enter sophomore Jerry Manukin.
The former St. John Central standout is listed as the No. 2 signal-caller on the Muskingum depth chart, according to head coach Al Logan, a Barnesville alum.
"I hadn't heard Dalton's name all camp until you brought it up," Logan said during an interview prior to Barnesville and John Glenn meeting on the McConagha Stadium turf last Friday in New Concord.
"We're going to move forward and find a kid that can play that position and do a good job for us," Logan added.
Alex Meredith, from Canton GlenOak, is listed at No. 1 on the depth chart.
"He is our frontrunner right now," Logan noted. "But Jerry has done a good job so far. As the season goes along, I can see Jerry stepping in and making some big plays for us."
The Muskie offense will feature All-Ohio Athletic Conference junior wide out James Washington. Washington led all Muskie receivers last year with 738 yards and four touchdowns. His 738 receiving yards ranked second all-time for a single season at Muskingum. The standout receiver ranked fifth in the OAC in receiving yards and eighth in receptions.
Also aiding in the offensive attack will be junior running back Anthony Frye. Frye racked up 202 yards on 52 totes last season en route to averaging 3.9 yards per carry. He ended the year with a pair of touchdowns.
Junior running back Shane Dotson who notched two touchdowns in 2011 will also help lead the Muskie running game.
A strength for the offense this season will be the veteran experience the Muskies will field across the offensive line.
Anchoring the line will be All-Ohio Athletic Conference honoree junior Denny Ardman. Ardman will also serve as a captain for the Muskies this fall.
Flanking Ardman will be junior Andy Johnson, junior Shawn Hannon and senior Mike Gibbs.
Logan said defense is going to be the Muskies strong point to start the season.
"We lost some kids at linebacker, but we feel our front wall is one of the best groups of kids we've had in a long time. We have 7 or 8 guys that can rotate in and get the job done."
Among them are former St. Clairsville performer Jake Antolak, who was named a team captain.
"He's been with us for three years now, but this is the first season he has been healthy," Logan said. "He's done a great job for us. We're looking for big things from him."
On defense, Muskingum is coming off one of its most successful campaigns in program history.
Led by OAC Co-Assistant Coach of the Year Shap Boyd, Muskingum's hard-hitting unit led the league with 37 sacks, ranked second in rushing defense, third in total defense and third in scoring defense. In the national spotlight, the Muskie defense ranked fourth in sacks, 20th in rushing defense, 44th in scoring defense and 71st in total defense.
The Muskie defense returns eight starters and will be led by the senior trio of Antolak, Logan Ladd and Steve Stooksbury.
Antolak notched 30 stops last year. Ladd, a captain, registered 36 hits from his linebacker position. Stooksbury, a defensive end, led the team in tackles for loss with 7.5, and added 44 stops with four sacks.
Also aiding the defense will be the junior defensive back trio of Darrell Jones, Stephen Davis and Tristan Heath.
Jones made 20 stops and had one interception and one fumble recovery. Davis recorded seven hits and was a standout on special teams where he led the Muskies in kick return and punt return average. Heath recorded 31 tackles and made one interception.
Other OVAC products on the Muskies roster are Wes Rataiczak (Shenandoah, Jr., WR); Gianni Fuscardo (Brooke, Fr., RB); Alvin Taylor (Steubenville, Jr., RB); Shawn Hannan (Cambridge, Jr., OL); Fred Lowe (East Liverpool, Jr., OL); Bryson Stephen (Barnesville, So., TE); Greg Fox (Cambridge, Fr., PK); Jordan Abdalla (Edison, So., WR); Jacob Houston (Barnesville, So., OL); Jacob Clark (Shadyside, Fr., OL); Ian Cottrill (Cambridge, Fr., LB); Dashaun Lewis (Cambridge, Fr., RB) and Davon Wicker (Steubenville, FR., DE).
Muskingum opens its season Saturday when Waynesburg visits.
The Jackets have several OVAC products as well in Bernie Thompson (Union Local, So., WR); Josh Tolliver (Bellaire, So., DL); Jonathan Carlier (Martins Ferry, Fr., LB); Amos Leach (Union Local, So., DL) and Anthony Rocchio (Bellaire, student assistant coach, DL).
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