Hen football players see positive signs

 

Coach Sonny Rocco said Joe Walker is still the Hens’ No. 1 QB going into the off-season. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — It’s way too soon to tell how Delaware’s football fortunes will change under Danny Rocco.

Certainly, Saturday’s Blue-White spring game offered only a glimpse of what the Blue Hens might look like in the fall.

Clearly, though, the players seem to think things will be different under Rocco, UD’s first-year coach.

“I feel like a breath of fresh air has been put through our program, offensively and defensively,” said junior linebacker Troy Reeder, who was voted a team captain on Saturday. “Guys are excited and I hope everybody else is, too.

“It’s been a lot of fun to play for them,” he said about the new coaching staff.

Junior tight end Charles Scarff is only in his second year at Delaware, after transferring from Rutgers. But he said he likes the change in the coaching staff’s demeanor as well.

“It just seems that everyone is in a more positive mood than last year,” said Scarff. “Definitely, the coaches have a winning background. They yell at us on the field but it’s more coaching — there’s less negativity.”

For the record, the White, which featured the defensive players, won Saturday’s scrimmage 53-29 over the Blue. But that was based on a system that rewarded teams for things like a three-and-out or a first down.

There were actually only three touchdowns scored in the event, with quarterbacks Joe Walker and Pat Kehoe throwing for one TD each.

The defense did have four interceptions. Linebacker Anthony Jackson returned one of them 46 yards for a touchdown.

Polytech High grad Mark Bonnie also added a 43-yard field goal.

Rocco wasn’t surprised the defense came out on top. But the former Richmond coach said he would have liked to see better execution from the offense.

“The offense was very sporadic,” he said. “I’m disappointed in that.

“The hard thing about this game is the linebackers are all standing there calling the plays out before they run them. … They know what’s coming. But I wasn’t at all pleased with the execution, the tempo of our offensive football team today.”


Linebacker Anthony Jackson returned an interception 46 yards for a TD on Saturday. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

One of the offensive highlights from the scrimmage was Walker’s 24-yard scoring pass to Scarff just before halftime.

The 6-foot-5, 273-pounder pulled in the ball over the top of safety Ray Jones.

Scarff, who was named the most improved offensive player of spring, said he likes being used more at tight end than at wide receiver, where he often lined up last fall. He’s added 23 pounds to his frame.

“I felt more comfortable getting back to tight end,” said Scarff, who had four catches for 40 yards. “I love it. Receiver was not my best thing I could do.”

Walker completed 10-of-20 passes for 120 yards with the TD. But he also threw three interceptions — a couple of which came on tipped passes.

Backup Kehoe was 5-for-9 for 60 yards with one TD and no interceptions.

Rocco said Walker goes into the offseason still as the Hens’ starting QB. He’s been the main starter for the last two season although the passing game as a whole has had only limited success.

“Joe’s our starter, I’m not going to play head games,” said Rocco. “He’s started a lot of football game. We’ll watch the film. I think Pat made a push today.

Backup QB Pat Kehoe saw a great deal of playing time in Saturday’s scrimmage. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

”Joe had a good camp. He didn’t have a real good day today but he had a good camp. Pat did real well early (in camp) but I thought he plateaued a little in the middle. But he did some really good things today.”

Whether Rocco brings in transfers at quarterback — or any other position — remains to be seen. He said he and his staff will take a long, hard look at the roster today and make some decisions.

Rocco did say that finding the right transfer isn’t always simple.

“I don’t want to take a guy just to take a guy,” he said. “I want to take the best guys that are out there — that help fill our needs and increase the probability of us winning this year. But the reality is, it’s not the NFL draft. It’s not, ‘We want that guy, let’s go get him.’”

The bottom line from Saturday’s session is that the Hens still have a long way to go in getting the program turned around.

But, at least, everyone seems to feel they’re headed in the right direction.

“I told the kids, there’s a million things I can say to you at the end here,” said Rocco. “I just want you to know I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be your coach. It feels so good to be able to say that and feel that way and be sincere about it.

“Our work’s out in front of us. These kids will work hard. We’re all in this together and we’re committed to getting it done.”

Extra points

Besides Reeder, Delaware’s other captains are linebacker Charles Bell, running back Wes Hills and center Brody Kern. Bell and Hills were both captains last year. … Freshman defensive lineman Sal Mauro was named the most improved defensive player. … Reeder and defensive lineman Bilal Nichols were the team’s weightroom champions. … Gene Coleman II caught a 15-yard scoring pass from Kehoe with 24 seconds remaining in the scrimmage. … Redshirt freshman receiver Joey Carter had four catches for 67 yards. … Polytech’s Bonnie also had one punt for 47 yards. … Junior Kareem Williams, who redshirted last year, had 10 carries for 23 yards. … Former Blue Hen star Rich Gannon was on hand and presented with an alumni award.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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