Delaware coach Rocco readies to face old team

NEWARK — Danny Rocco had to admit it was a little different as he sat down to watch film of Richmond on Monday morning.

After all, most of the Spiders used to be his players.

“I can roll the film and call the players (by name),” said the first-year Delaware football coach. “That’s been really neat to be honest with you.

“I don’t really need to see their jersey numbers, I don’t need a flip card.”

Everybody knew this day was coming as soon as Rocco was hired away from Richmond last December.

After being the Spiders’ head coach for the past five seasons, Rocco and the Blue Hens (2-1 CAA, 4-2 overall) will host No. 13 Richmond (2-1, 4-2) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. It’s homecoming, of course.

It’s a fairly rare situation when a head coach leaves one school to go another school in the same conference. While Rocco has tried to downplay the situation, he wouldn’t be human if he didn’t feel something when he faces his old team for the first time.

“I think on game day, I will have some emotions,” admitted Rocco, who took the Spiders to the FCS national semifinals a year ago. “I certainly have a great appreciation for my time at Richmond and a great appreciation for the relationships that I had built when I was the head coach.”

Rocco added that he’d just “try his darndest” to stay focused during the week. Saturday might be a different story, however.

Rocco isn’t quite sure how he’ll feel when he looks across the Delaware Stadium field and sees so many familiar faces.

“These are student-athletes that we recruited, we’ve been in their homes, we have relationships with, and then we’d had a lot of success together,” he said. “I have great appreciation for what they’ve done for me.

“But, even in that moment, I’ll be talking about, focusing on the process and doing my job and focusing on the decisions that have to be made.”

How much the previous relationship between Rocco and the Spiders has an effect on Saturday’s game remains to be seen.

Rocco brought several assistant coaches with him when he was hired at Delaware. Of course, the Spiders are also very familiar with Rocco.

“I know that (quarterback) Kyle Lauletta is watching our film and calling our defense,” Rocco said on Monday. “And not only is he calling the defense, but he’s making the checks. He knows what words we’re using.

“He’s 100 percent convinced that this is this — this is whatever coverage it is, this is what they’re reading and this is what they’re looking at. That’s just a fact.”

In some ways, the Hens’ players are on the outside looking in. However the two sides feel about each other, that’s between Richmond’s players and Rocco.

“For us, it’s pretty much another game,” junior linebacker Troy Reeder said after Delaware’s 17-0 win over William & Mary on Saturday. “Besides maybe Coach Rocco, I didn’t really know much about Richmond’s staff when we played them last year. To us, as players, I don’t think it will feel much different.”

Offensive issues

Delaware’s offense remains a big question mark after the Hens managed just 10 first downs and 195 total yards against William & Mary.

While they won the game, Delaware’s players know those kind of numbers aren’t going top be enough in a lot of games.

“A couple of us were talking after the game saying, thank God for our defense,” said tight end Brandon Whaley. “They carry us on their back a little bit.

“As the season goes on it’s going to get tougher and tougher,” he added. “We just need to work on putting more points on the board.”

“Offensively, it was kind of the same old, same old.” Rocco said on Saturday. “Inconsistent, just sporadic. We had two drives that I thought were really good drives and drives that we could build on and gain confidence from. But we just were unable to sustain.”

At halftime, Rocco said he told his players he was “extraordinarily disappointed in our offense — and tired and frustrated. It’s like ‘Ground Hog Day.’”

On Monday, Rocco again complimented William & Mary’s defense for its performance. The Hens, however, are now just 10th in th Colonial Athletic Association in both scoring offense (19 points) and total offense (299 yards).

“There’s some things we’re looking at in making some alterations, some adjustments with formations and personnel groupings and then obviously with play calling,” said Rocco.

What the Hens don’t want to do is start taking big risks offensively just to say they’re doing something different.

“Do we have to get better on offense?” said Rocco. “Yeah, we sure do.”

Quarterback J.P. Caruso is slated to make his second-straight start against Richmond. But Rocco said former starter Joe Walker will continue to see action.

Walker lined up behind center and ran the ball four times for 24 yards against William & Mary.

“We’re definitely going to continue to build on that package for Joe,” said Rocco. “There’s a lot of things that Joe can do, including running every play in our playbook.”

Injury update

Rocco wasn’t expecting to hear good news about junior cornerback Tenny Adewusi, who was slated to have an MRI on a wrist injury on Monday.

While not a starter, Adewusi is the No. 2 cornerback on both the left and right sides. He’s also a key special-teams player.

Rocco said he wasn’t sure who would take Adewusi’s spot if he can’t play. Delaware has already lost three defensive starters to season-ending injuries.

Extra points

Rocco thought both Troy Reeder and safety Nasir Adderley played exceptionally well against the Tribe. “They were playing with unbelievable energy and emotion,” said Rocco. … Rocco also said freshman linebacker Colby Reeder continues to get better. “There were a couple plays where he and his brother both showed up on the ball at the same time,” said Rocco. “And it was a major collision out there.” … The Hens received votes in both the coaches and STATS FC polls on Monday.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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