Back from injury, Blue Hen RB Hills eyes opener vs. DSU

The Blue Hens, will be happy to have Wes Hills playing again on Thursday when they open the season by hosting Route 13 rival Delaware State at 7 p.m. In a lot of ways, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound redshirt junior is the heart of the Delaware football squad. (UD sports information/Mark Campbell)

The Blue Hens, will be happy to have Wes Hills playing again on Thursday when they open the season by hosting Route 13 rival Delaware State at 7 p.m. In a lot of ways, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound redshirt junior is the heart of the Delaware football squad. (UD sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — Don’t get Wes Hills wrong.

The Delaware running back loves cheering for his teammates from the sidelines — and proves it all the time.

But, all things considered, Hills would much rather be on the field.

And, after sitting out most of last season with a broken foot, the high-energy junior is itching to get out there again.

“There’s a lot of built-up frustration I’ve got coming this Thursday night,” Hills said on Monday. “It’s been far too long.”

The Blue Hens, of course, will be happy to have Hills playing again on Thursday when they open the season by hosting Route 13 rival Delaware State at 7 p.m.

In a lot of ways, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound redshirt junior is the heart of the Delaware football squad.

Not only is Hills the Hens’ starting running back but he’s frequently the first man down on kick coverage as well as one of Delaware’s top kick returners.

“When you look at Wes, you look at a guy that I think has universal respect among the players,” said coach Dave Brock. “I think they respect the player that he is on the field but I also think they respect how hard he practices every day, what an unselfish a player he is and what a unique person he is.

“He can be the guy who scores a touchdown and he’s going to go down and make the tackle on the next kickoff. … He’d play on every special team if we let him. He loves playing, he’s passionate about football. He’s got an energy level that won’t quit.”

Junior linebacker Charles Bell, another one of Delaware’s captains, says trying to tackle Hills in practice isn’t easy. “I don’t know how he has energy left — he’s always moving,” said Bell. “It’s not fun (trying to tackle him) but it’s great for us to get practice against probably the best back in the league. He’s hard to catch — he’s pretty fast, too.” (UD sports information/Mark Campbell)

Junior linebacker Charles Bell, another one of Delaware’s captains, says trying to tackle Hills in practice isn’t easy. “I don’t know how he has energy left — he’s always moving,” said Bell. “It’s not fun (trying to tackle him) but it’s great for us to get practice against probably the best back in the league. He’s hard to catch — he’s pretty fast, too.” (UD sports information/Mark Campbell)

Junior linebacker Charles Bell, another one of Delaware’s captains, says trying to tackle Hills in practice isn’t easy.

“I don’t know how he has energy left — he’s always moving,” said Bell. “It’s not fun (trying to tackle him) but it’s great for us to get practice against probably the best back in the league. He’s hard to catch — he’s pretty fast, too.”

With all three of their top running backs healthy, the Hens will have to figure out how to spread out the carries between Hills, Jalen Randolph and Thomas Jefferson. Junior Kareem Williams is also healthy but plans to redshirt.

But Hills, who has 1,121 career rushing yards, says sharing the load isn’t a problem.

“It’s funny,” he said. “You would think we would have a lot of resentment for each other trying to get that (playing) time. But it’s not like that.

“It’s really a tight-knit family in there. We’re a bunch of brothers … and it’s like having a little brother and one-upping them.”

The unexpected season off gave Hills the chance to get bigger, faster and stronger. He also jokes that watching Jefferson and Williams team up in the backfield last fall left both him and Randolph pretty motivated.

Randolph also missed most of last season with an injury.

“We’re going to go out there and show them the old guys have still got it — especially this first game,” said Hills. “It’s a big one for us.

“Like Coach Brock has been telling you guys, Delaware football is back,” Hills told reporters. “We all want to show you on the field that we mean business and we’re back, better than ever. We’re going to come at you and you better be ready for it.”

Mystery date

Considering that DelState has 58 new players on its roster, the Hens really don’t know what to expect from the Hornets on Thursday night.

And since the two programs haven’t met since 2014, Delaware hasn’t even faced second-year DSU coach Kenny Carter before.

Bell said the Hens have watched film on some of the Hornets’ top offensive skill players.

“We just have to go out there and play our defense,” he said.

Likewise, Carter said the Hornets are just going to focus on themselves in Thursday’s matchup.

Asked what concerns he had specifically about Delaware, Carter answered, “I don’t have concerns.

“The way we look at it, the way we go about our business, is we game plan against our opponent,” he said. “We go about the business of making sure that we don’t create opportunities that are going to force us to lose the game. We respect every opponent that we play.

“But it really comes down to how we execute.”

Extra points

Junior Brandon Whaley, the returning starter at tight end, isn’t on the two-deep depth chart for the DelState game. Sophomore Owen Tyler is now listed as the starter with Rutgers transfer Charles Scarff as his backup. Scarff had been practicing as a receiver in preseason… Sophomore Ryley Angeline, who was a tight end, is now listed as a second-string receiver. … Delaware has 23 in-state players on its roster while Delaware State has 17 First Staters. … Former standout Pat Devlin, who quarterbacked the Hens to the 2010 FCS national championship game, will be the honorary captain for Thursday’s game.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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