The Muskingum University football team has some questions to answer coming into the 2016 season. Some of those questions were answered Tuesday, August 9 at the annual Ohio Athletic Conference Football Media Day in Canton, Ohio.
One of the answers comes at the quarterback position for the Muskies. The team had Cody Williams as the starting QB in 2015, but Williams graduated in May. First year Kevin Peterson was the primary backup last season, but he is no longer with the squad, according to the most recent team roster.
To fill the void at QB, Head Coach Al Logan has made the decision to move senior Griffin Degener to the position. Degener was the backup to Williams in the 2014 season, but only attempted seven passes last year as he made the transition to wide receiver. He has completed 13 of 31 pass attempts for 164 yards with two touchdowns in his career as a QB.
“He’s the only guy we’ve got coming back that’s got any experience at all at that position,” said Logan. “He understands the logistics of what we’re trying to do.”
The job of Degener’s understudy will likely go to a young player, with sophomore Damiane Scott being the only returning non-first year besides Degener at the position.
Depth on the defensive side of the ball is another question for the Muskies, with seniors Dorian Maynard and Chaney Fulton as the headline returners.
Three of the starting four defensive backs have left the team from last year, along with two of the three starting linebackers. To help lessen the load on Maynard in the secondary, Logan and the coaches have shifted 2015 leading rusher Melvin Smith to the defensive unit.
Smith began to make the transition in spring practice, and is still adjusting to the move.
“He’s fine with it,” said Logan. “Melvin’s turning into a good teammate and he understands what we’re trying to do. I thought he moved and picked up things pretty well.”
Fulton returns as the lead linebacker for the Muskies after leading the team in tackles last season with 97 total stops. Logan has high expectations for the senior, with one wish in particular.
“Maturity, I hope,” said Logan. “After four years of being the quality player he is, to see him put it together and play each game the full 60 minutes hard and play it the right way and bring some leadership.”
Smith’s move into the defensive secondary opens the door for fellow senior Jordan Scanlon to step into the starting running back spot.
Scanlon was the third leading rusher for the Muskies last season behind Smith and Williams, racking up 336 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s a hoss,” said Logan. “I wouldn’t have moved Melvin if I didn’t think we had a guy comparable to his ability.”
Scanlon will be the primary back in the system, but Logan said to expect to see a lot of sophomore Warren Wilson, along with first years Golden Fitchpatrick and Bernard Johnson.
The Muskies were picked to finish the 2016 season in 7th place in the OAC Coaches Poll, and in a tie for 8th with rival Marietta in the Media Poll.
Reigning national champions, Mount Union, were picked as the overwhelming favorites to repeat as conference champs. Doing so would give the Purple Raiders their 22nd consecutive OAC crown.
The Muskies will look to improve on last year’s mark of 1-9 starting with their first game of the season on the road against Waynesburg on Sept. 3.