Blue Hen notebook: Senior tight end Scarff emerges as major threat

In nine games, Blue Hen tight end Charles Scarff has caught 27 passes for 350 yards with seven touchdowns plus a two-point conversion. In his previous two seasons combined, he had 24 receptions for 234 yards and four TDs. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, Charles Scarff is a tough guy not to notice.

But, as a pass catcher, the Delaware tight end didn’t exactly stand out the last couple years.

Suddenly, as a senior, the former Rutgers transfer has more than doubled the combined stats he put up in his first two seasons with the Blue Hens.

“I think it was just me saying I needed to be better — stepping up and becoming a better player,” said Scarff. “This is the first year I’ve had back-to-back offensive coordinators. So I was able to get into the rhythm a little bit more and understand it a little bit better.

“And definitely being best friends with (quarterback) Pat (Kehoe) helped, too. It just seemed like all the pieces fell into place.”

With No. 11 Delaware playing another crucial CAA football game at No. 12 Stony Brook on Saturday, Charles Scarff has become a pretty unique offensive weapon for the Hens. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

However the transformation happened, the Hens are glad that it did.

With No. 11 Delaware (5-1 CAA, 7-2 overall) playing another crucial CAA football game at No. 12 Stony Brook (4-2 CAA, 6-3 overall) on Saturday at 1 p.m., Scarff has become a pretty unique offensive weapon for the Hens.

Scarff’s height is clearly an advantage. But he runs well after catches and regularly out-leaps smaller defenders for jump balls in the end zone.

In nine games, he’s caught 27 passes for 350 yards with seven touchdowns plus a two-point conversion. In his previous two seasons combined, he had 24 receptions for 234 yards and four TDs.

In Delaware history, only one player has caught more TD passes in a season (Pete Johnson, eight in 1971) and in a career (the Baltimore Ravens’ Nick Boyle, 12 in 2011-14).

“I’ve seen Charles probably make as much improvement as anybody in our program, from last year to this year,” said UD coach Danny Rocco. “That’s not diminishing what he did last year.

“It’s interesting. Sometimes my expectations are higher than their own. I see a guy that I think can do something and a guy that fits a system a certain way. I have these unbelievably high expectations for a guy. And sometimes a student-athletes’ expectations aren’t yet quite in sync with that. I think Charles is one of those guys who’s just straight-up stepped into that role.”

Clearly, part of the reason for Scarff’s breakout season is the improvement of Delaware’s passing game overall. Rocco said Kehoe definitely has confidence that he can look in Scarff’s direction, even if the big tight end is covered.

“There’s a confidence there that if Pat throws the ball into a certain area — and it’s not a pin head, it’s a decent-sized area — that we’ve got a good chance of making a catch and maybe even getting the ball in the end zone,” said Rocco. “I’m really proud of Charles.”

On top of it all, Scarff has been dealing with a shoulder injury for a while. He sat out spring practice and, Rocco said, there were some doubts about his recovery over the summer.

“He’s kind of been able to manage all those things,” said Rocco. “It doesn’t mean they go away. It doesn’t mean that he’s all better. It’s just you manage them better and you understand them better.

“You start to be able to stack weeks where you are playing at a really high level. That generates energy for everybody — even for him — to be able to go out there and make plays to impact the game.”

Hall makes long haul

Brandan Hall has spent his whole life in California.

So being in Delaware is almost like being in a new world for the Hens’ junior defensive end.

Brandan Hall (No. 54) celebrates a safety he was in on early in the season. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

“I’m used to a lot of mountains,” said Hall. “And it rains a lot here. Other than that, people are about the same and football is football no matter where you go.”

On the field, the 6-foot-1, 265-pound Hall is starting to find his place with the Hens, too. Once a highly-regarded high school recruit, Hall spent the last two seasons playing for San Diego Mesa Community College.

He was in on three tackles in Delaware’s win at Albany on Saturday, giving him 16 for the season.

“With all the guys on the ‘D’ line, we demand physicality,” said Rocco. “‘KBB’ — knock blockers back, that’s what they hear all day, every day.

“He (Hall) has got the ability to do that. And it’s not easy when you’re going up against 300-pounders and what have you. … He’s bought in.”

Hall came to Delaware because one of his junior college coaches was familiar with Rocco. He said he’s happy with his cross-country decision.

“I felt like it (Delaware) had that big-school feeling in a smaller setting,” said Hall. “You guys are all about football here which is really cool. All in all it’s a good fit for both of us, I feel like.”

QB picture fluctuates

While Kehoe has taken just about all the meaningful snaps this season, Rocco said the Hens’ backup QB situation isn’t always the same week to week.

Rocco that, as a graduate student in UD’s business school, J.P. Caruso regularly misses some practice time each week. A fifth-year senior, Caruso was the starter in the second half of the season last year.

“I fully respect it and we’re on the same page,” Rocco said about the situation.

At the same time, Rocco said there are some weeks when former Smyrna High All-Stater Nolan Henderson, a redshirt freshman, might be the next QB off the bench.

“There’s a couple weeks when we felt he (Caruso) is more equipped to be the guy,” Rocco. “And there’s a couple weeks when we felt that Nolan would be equipped to be the guy. … It kind of plays itself as put the game plan together.”

As for former Middletown High standout Darius Wade, who transferred from Boston College in the off-season, Rocco said he’s dealing with a shoulder injury that severely limits what the senior can do.

Extra points

Delaware moved up two spots to No. 11 in Monday’s STATS FCS Division I poll. Among CAA teams, Elon (No. 5) and James Madison (No. 9) are still ahead of the Hens. … Of course, Delaware received a big vote of confidence from the NCAA playoff committee, which ranked the Hens No. 10 in its mid-season poll last week. … Kehoe needs 162 yards to become the 13th player in UD history with 2,000 passing yards in a season.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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