Hens add to their secondary

NEWARK — It goes without saying that the pandemic really changed college recruiting this year.

But, along with not being able to meet with recruits in person, college coaches are facing a great many questions about their roster in the coming year.

Danny Rocco

There are questions like how many seniors — and which ones — will use their extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA? How do you find room for new players when the players they’re replacing are still on the team?

With that in mind, Delaware football coach Danny Rocco announced an early signing class of eight high school recruits on Wednesday. He said that was about the number he and his staff were looking for.

The Hens picked up a quarterback in Easton, Md.’s Ryan O’Connor — although Rocco said he might not even bring the youngster in until the spring of 2022 because of Delaware’s depth at the position.

Probably of more immediate impact, however, are the three defensive backs that UD signed. That group includes safeties Ty Davis (Lenape, N.J.) and Steven Rose (Malvern Prep, Pa.) as well as cornerback Shane Thrift (Gateway, Pa.).

Rocco said that the number of senior and junior defensive backs on the Hens’ roster led to the focus on the secondary with this class.

“We felt that it was going to be really important that we would have more depth and more options,” he said. “Not necessarily for this coming fall but for those to follow.

“Schematically, we’re doing a few more things with secondary players — secondary body types. I feel really good about what we were able to get done there and I think we got three really good candidates to help us.”

O’Connor is a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder who’s still adding to Easton’s school record of 52 career touchdown passes. An All-Stater as a junior, he’s thrown for over 4,000 yards.

The Hens currently have seven quarterbacks listed on their roster, none of whom are seniors. Rocco said it helped that O’Connor and Delaware offensive coordinator Jared Ambrose already knew each other.

“The more we watched his film, the more we felt like he would be a really good addition here to our current group of quarterbacks,” said Rocco. “Ryan is one of those guys, we were really high on him early. We started to shop around and look elsewhere and kind of circled ourselves right back to where we started with Ryan.

“The thing that made it a little harder. … I’ve never taken a quarterback I haven’t had in camp. It was like, well let’s wait until we get him to camp. Once we found out that the July camps were not going to be a real thing, it kind of sent us back to where we started.”

One thing that Rocco said is that, because of the roster uncertainty, Delaware isn’t looking to bring in any transfers for the time being. He said he and his staff haven’t seriously looked at any of the hundreds of players currently in the NCAA transfer portal.

Of course, the Hens are also playing a spring schedule for the first time.

“I think the thing that I want to be able to do is recognize our current seniors and to have a productive, successful spring cycle with them,” said Rocco. “Then (I want to) give them the option to return for an additional year. So just by saying that, there really are no scholarships (available).”

Extra points

Rocco said he was pleased with what he saw from the current incoming freshman class during fall practice. That group included former Smyrna High standout linebacker Debo Williams. “Debo is 19 going on 30,” Rocco said about his maturity. “That’s who he is. There’s a lot to like there.” … About 6-foot-5 freshman QB Deven Bollinger, Rocco said, “He may not play like (Joe) Flacco, but he’s going to look like him one day. Deven Bollinger is a big boy. He’s going to be a big man.”

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