Blue Hens count on lineman Bozick as experienced team leader

A third-team all-CAA pick last fall, Connor Bozick has turned out to be a very reliable player for Delaware. He’s played in all 35 games since his redshirt freshman season with 23 starts. And Bozick is versatile, too. He may line up at either right guard or tackle this season. (UD sports information)

A third-team all-CAA pick last fall, Connor Bozick has turned out to be a very reliable player for Delaware. He’s played in all 35 games since his redshirt freshman season with 23 starts. And Bozick is versatile, too. He may line up at either right guard or tackle this season. (UD sports information)

NEWARK — Connor Bozick spent his first few seasons at Delaware mostly worrying about what he was doing.

Now that’s he’s a fifth-year senior, the veteran offensive lineman says he’s a lot more focused on what the opposing defense is doing.

“Whenever you start to see the bigger picture,” said the 6-foot-5, 320-pounder, “you start understanding concepts more than just plays.”

It’s a pretty good place to find himself in, says Bozick. Certainly, Blue Hen coach Dave Brock, whose team is preparing for its Sept. 1 season opener against Delaware State, will be surprised if he doesn’t get a stellar season from Bozick.

On a team that still has only 10 seniors on the roster, Bozick is expected to be a leader. Along with junior linebacker Charles Bell, he’s one of just two Delaware players named to the preseason all-Colonial Athletic Association team.

“We’re putting our eggs in his basket,” coach Dave Brock said about Bozick. “He should be our emotional leader, he should be our physical presence up front. He’s not only an experienced but a decorated player. He’s thought to be one of the best in our conference.

“We’re counting on him to be a dominant-type player for us — and that’s performance on the field, that’s attitude in the locker room, that’s leadership externally. Even though we’re a very experienced football team, we’re very young. … There aren’t many guys there that are the nucleus of the team.”

A third-team all-CAA pick last fall, Bozick has turned out to be a very reliable player for Delaware. He’s played in all 35 games since his redshirt freshman season with 23 starts.

And Bozick is versatile, too. He may line up at either right guard or tackle this season.

“Bozick was getting playing time my true freshman year while none of us did,” said redshirt junior center Brody Kern. “So he is the most experienced offensive lineman we have on our team.

“So as far as Bozick being a leader? Yeah, absolutely. A lot of young guys look up to him and he works his tail off every day.”

Like at most of their positions, the Hens believe that their experience up front will really pay off this fall.

Along with Bozick and Kern, junior tackle Jake Trump and senior guard Will Lewis give Delaware returning starters at four of its five offensive line spots. A year ago, that group helped the Hens finish 17th nationally in rushing offense (219.4 yards per game).

But Bozick said, at this point in his career, the last thing he wants to do is take it easy.

“I’m an old-school kind of guy,” he said. “I always think that you can get better. … But I do feel like this is one of the more prepared camps that I’ve been a part of.

“Wherever they need me to play is where I’m going to be. I’m ready to go wherever the team needs me to be. It’s not an issue of if I can do it, it’s a matter of what the team needs me to do.”

As much as any position on a football team, offensive lineman usually need time to develop. It takes physical maturity and strength to be able to hold your own up front.

Brock says there’s nothing easy about what they’re asking Bozick to do.

“In there, at its core, it’s a street fight,” said Brock. “It’s a physical battle. You need your shell hardened over time. And his (Bozick’s) is hardened.

“He’s played a lot of football here and he has an absolute understanding of what the expectations are. When I look at him, I see a kid who wants to be that guy. I see a kid who really is driven to be a leader — driven to be a guy who’s going to going to make a difference.”

Extra points

While last year’s starting quarterback, redshirt sophomore Joe Walker, appears to be the first-stringer there again, Brock said on Sunday that nothing is written in stone. “We’re going to have competition everywhere,” said Brock. “I’ll name a starter at some point. But, right now, I want to see these guys play. I want to see them do what we need them to do to be successful.” … With four experienced running backs, Brock said the plan is still to redshirt Kareem Williams (934 career rushing yards). The junior is the only one of the four with a redshirt year still available. Of course, Williams was expected to redshirt last fall before Wes Hills and Jalen Randolph both suffered season-ending injuries … The Hens are slated to hold its last preseason scrimmage on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Delaware Stadium.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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