Cherry set to lead young Blue Hen receiver group

Of Delaware’s top six receivers, Diante Cherry is the only one who’s caught a college pass. (UD sports information/Mark Campbell)

Of Delaware’s top six receivers, Diante Cherry is the only one who’s caught a college pass. (UD sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — When he was younger, it was all about the games for Diante Cherry.

Practice? That wasn’t a big priority for the Delaware receiver.

A few years later, though, Cherry now realizes he can’t be good in games if he doesn’t get the job done at practice first.

“It was the coaches getting on me — just telling me to run every play,” said the 5-foot-11, 185-pound third-year sophomore. “Just give your all. The older players, too, the players that do it every play during a game and at practice, they taught me how to do it.”

Now the Blue Hens need Cherry to be that older, more mature player that shows the younger guys how it’s done. That’s because, in Delaware’s rebuilding receiver corps, he’s suddenly the elder statesman.

The Hens, who open the season on Friday by hosting Jacksonville at 7 p.m., lost their top two receivers from a year ago. That includes Michael Johnson, a free-agent signee of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Jerel Harrison, who was dismissed after being arrested in preseason.

Indeed, of Delaware’s top six receivers, Cherry’s the only one who’s caught a college pass.

Receivers coach Bryan Bossard isn’t panicking, however.

The Dover High grad remembers the young receivers he had in 2002 who ended up being the starters on Delaware’s 2003 I-AA national championship squad.

That group included freshmen like David Boler, Justin Long, Brian Ingram and Joey Bleymaier.

“To me it screams ‘02,’” said Bossard. “They’re working hard and I think we have talent. … The young guys are trying to find their role. Right now it’s really trying to find the right place to put them where they can be successful.”

Cherry has already flashed the ability to be a playmaker. A year ago he had 35 catches for 283 yards and a touchdown while making five starts.

Now he’s going to get more opportunities but he’s also going to see more coverage. And he’s going to have to be a leader.

“I really like where he’s at,” Bossard said about Cherry. “I think he’s taken the role of being an elder.”

“I’ve learned how to be a team player and encourage others,” said Cherry. “I thnk I’ve matured as a person and a player.”

Delaware also hopes that newcomer Tre Brown is ready to make an immediate impact. The 6-foot-1, 203-pounder redshirted a year ago.

Head coach Dave Brock was impressed with the way Brown improved physically after only one year.

“I love Tre,” said Brock. “He’s completely changed his body. He was 220 pounds when he came here, he’s about 203 pounds now. He’s about seven or eight-percent body fat less than he was. He’s running, he’s agile, he’s conditioned.

“He’s really a different kid. He had ball skills and talent that you could see. But his movement is so much better. We’re really excited about him. We think he’s going to be a dynamic player here for a long time.”

“I’ve got to step up, that’s what all the coaches are telling me,” said Brown. “They called my name and said, ‘Tre, it’s go time. You’ve got to step up.’ I said, ‘OK, I will.’

“Like Coach Brock says, being young isn’t going to be an excuse for us. We’ve got plenty of talent.”

The rest of Delaware’s top-line wideouts will come from a group that includes senior Ricky Bell, sophomore DeAndre Davis, true freshman Vinny Papale and Jamie Jarmon, the former Indian River High quarterback who moved to receiver last week.

Of course, along with all that inexperience at wideout, the Hens are also going to have a quarterback — either Blake Rankin or Joe Walker — who hasn’t played in a college game, either.

So, yes, Delaware’s passing game may be a work in progress this fall.

“There’s definitely talent and potential — a lot of potential,” said Cherry.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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