Baker's Dozen Aggies Earn Big Sky Honors

Nick King

Nov. 26, 2013

Complete Big Sky release

OGDEN, Utah - Junior Gabe Manzanares, who rushed for nearly 1,300 yards during his first season with the Aggies, was named the Big Sky Conference's Newcomer of the Year, leading 13 UC Davis football players honored by the league on Tuesday.

Defensive Nick King was named to the second team while Manzanares, cornerback Jonathan Perkins and kicker Brady Stuartwere voted to the third team.

Nine Aggies earned honorable mention recognition: receiver Tom Hemmingsen, offensive linemen Jay Luchetti and Ian Joseph, tight end Taylor Sloat, fullback Dalton Turay, free safety and punt returner Charles Boyett, linebacker Steven Pitts, cornerback Shamawn Wright and punter Colby Wadman.

The awards were voted by the Big Sky's 13 head coaches. UC Davis just completed its second season in the Big Sky, finishing with a 5-7 overall record while tying for fourth in the conference with a 5-3 mark.

Manzanares was a big part of the Aggies' attack this season. The City College of San Francisco transfer put together one of the best rushing seasons in program history, finishing with 1,285 yards on 259 attempts which ranked him fifth and third, respectively, on UC Davis' single-season list.

Manzanares had seven 100-yard rushing games, including five straight to end the season while gaing a monster 208 yards against Idaho State . He followed that with 175 yards the next week at Southern Utah. Manzanares scored 10 rushing touchdowns this fall.

He added 27 catches for 385 yards and another touchdown. Manzanares ended the regular season ranked 12th nationally in all-purpose yardage (151.8) and 12th in rushing yards per game (116.8).

King, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior from Mill Valley, earned his first Big Sky honor after another standout season which saw him post 62 tackles including a team-high 8.0 sacks, the latter ranking him third in the Big Sky and 35th in the FCS.

King also recovered two fumbles and had 9.0 TFL's overall. He enjoyed a big game against FCS playoff-bound Northern Arizona by collecting 3.5 sacks. He had a season-high 11 tackles the next week against Portland State.

Perkins, a 5-11, 185, senior from Gardena, moved up to third-team recognition this season after earning honorable mention last year. He had 46 tackles in 2013 - including a season-high nine stops against both Nevada and Sacramento State - intercepted a pass and had four pass-breakups.

Perkins was a double-threat with his outstanding special teams play. He blocked a field goal against Southern Utah and averaged 22.7 yards per kickoff return, returning one of them 72 yards against North Dakota earlier this month.

Stuart, a sophomore from Newhall, came on strong over the final five games of the season by connecting on 12 field goals, including making 10 in a row. He was 17 for 25 overall this year, breaking Eddie Loretto's school record of 16 made in 1985. His attempts are also a school record.

Stuart was twice named the league's ROOT SPORTS Special Teams Player of the week, most recently after tying the Aggie record with four field goals against North Dakota. He was also 24 of 25 on extra points.

Five Aggies on the offensive side of the ball, three on the defensive side and a special teams player earned honorable mention from the league on Tuesday.

Hemmingsen, a 5-10, 180, senior from Danville, came back strong after missing 2012 because of injury. He led UC Davis with 60 receptions for 640 yards while scoring four touchdowns. He had a tied a career-high with 10 receptions at Montana State in October.

The 5-10, 220, Turay was named honorable mention for the second straight year after providing outstanding blocking for the Aggie running backs throughout his junior season. The fullback caught 13 passes for 159 yards as well, scoring one touchdown along the way.

Sloat, a 6-4, 245, senior from McArthur, Calif., proved to be a dual blocking and receiving threat for UC Davis from his tight end position, posting 22 catches for 220 yards and three touchdowns. Two of his scores came in the first quarter at Northern Colorado last month while the other came against rival Cal Poly.

Luchetti, a 6-4, 285, junior center from Santa Rosa and Joseph, a 6-6, 300, junior tackle from Placerville, helped anchor an offensive line that spurred UC Davis to its best rushing average (152.3 ypg.) in more than a decade. Each of them started all 12 games while helping the Aggies average 388.2 ypg. of total offense.

Boyett, a 6-0, 195 junior from Napa, was among the FCS's top punt returners in 2013, ranking 21st with a 9.7 average. He had a career-best 44-yard return against North Dakota and averaged 15.2 yards per return over a 10-return stretch toward the end of the season. Boyett also led UC Davis with 86 tackles from his free safety position, including a team-high 51 solo.

The hard-hitting Pitts, a 6-1, 225, junior linebacker from El Cajon, Calif., was second on the team with 74 tackles while leading the Aggies with 11.5 TFL's. He had 4.0 sacks and broke up three passes as well. Pitts saved his best game for the end of the season, picking up a career-high 13 tackles and a sack during UC Davis' convincing 34-7 win over Sacramento State on Saturday during the 60th annual Causeway Classic.

Wright, a 5-9, 170, sophomore from Antioch, enjoyed a breakout year from his cornerback position while helping UC Davis lead the Big Sky in pass defense at 200.0 ypg. Wright, who also ranks 24th nationally in kickoff returns (25.8), paced the Aggies with nine pass-breakups including a season-high three at Northern Colorado.

Wadman made the most of his true freshman season, particularly following in the footsteps of Colton Schmidtwho was an All-Big Sky first-team honoree last season. The 6-1, 185, Wadman provided consistent punting for UC Davis this fall, averaging 38.4 yards on 71 punts. He put 22 inside the 20, had a long of 55 yards, and enjoyed good hang time which helped the Aggies rank third among FCS teams in punt return defense (1.7 avg.).

Big Sky champion Eastern Washington received two of the top individual awards, claiming Offensive Player of the Year honors with quarterback Vernon Adams and Freshman of the Year accolades with receiver Cooper Kupp.

Defensive tackle Sullivan Grosz of Cal Poly and defensive end Brad Daly of Montana State shared the Defensive Player of the Year award.

The Big Sky will be well-represented in the upcoming FCS playoffs with Eastern Washington, Montana, Northern Arizona and Southern Utah each earning bids. UC Davis beat Southern Utah, 20-3, in October.

UC Davis also held its annual football banquet on Sunday evening at the ARC Ballroom on campus. Ten awards were presented along with recognition for 16 outstanding seniors.

The Jerry Norris Award for most valuable and most inspirational, as well as the Outstanding Offensive Player award, were presented to Manzanares; King was named Outstanding Defensive Player, and senior Ryan O'Holleranwas selected Special Teams Player of the Year.

Wadman was named winner of the Mike Wise Award as outstanding freshman, defensive back Earnest Sayles IIIand Sloat each received the Aggie Pride Award, and Perkins was selected the recipient of the Bob Oliver Award as unsung hero.

Luchetti and defensive tackle Anthony Kaspar each earned Most Improved Player accolades, while offensive lineman Julian Bertero and defensive back Darryl Grahamwere named winners of the George Belenis Award as outstanding redshirts.

Senior quarterback Randy Wright, only the second Aggie signal-caller to pass for more than 8,000 career yards and have 8,000 yards of total offense, received the Coaches Award. Wright is also believed to be the only quarterback from either UC Davis or Sacramento State to start and win four Causeway Classics.

UC Davis finished its first season under head coach Ron Gould with five wins over its last eight games after starting 0-4. Fourteen FCS teams began the season winless through their first four matchups with only two of them matching the Aggies' final record.