Hens beef up QB position by signing Middletown product, BC transfer Wade

Darius Wade

NEWARK — Delaware’s quarterback play — particularly its passing game — has been a thorn in the Blue Hens’ side for several seasons now.

So there probably isn’t a quick fix for it.

But second-year Delaware football coach Danny Rocco has taken some steps that he thinks will get the Hens’ QB game going again.

On Wednesday, Rocco officially announced that Delaware has signed former Middletown High standout Darius Wade, a Boston College transfer with one year of eligibility remaining.

Wade was one of seven signees that Delaware announced on Wednesday as part of the “second wave” of its recruiting class. The Hens also inked 14 players on Dec. 20 under the NCAA’s new early format.

And that comes after Rocco hired former James Madison head coach Alex Wood as Delaware’s quarterback coach on Monday. A 35-year coaching veteran, Wood has coached the position at the NFL level.

“I’m very excited,” said Rocco. “Coach Wood brings an awful lot of experience and wisdom to our program and to coaching that position.

“I think we’ve really been able to resolve the depth (issue) and offer a much deeper pool of talent at that position — which is the most critical position on your football team.”

Rocco said Wednesday that senior Joe Walker, who has been the Hens’ starting QB for the past three seasons, will be used primarily as a wide receiver when spring practice begins on March 13. He said Walker could still see time at quarterback in wildcat situations.

“I wanted to give Joe Walker the freedom to kind of fly as a receiver,” said Rocco, “and not necessarily be burdened with the additional responsibilities of being one of our quarterbacks.”

Rocco also announced that senior J.P. Caruso, the Appalachian State transfer who took over as the starter midway through last season, has had surgery on his right shoulder. Still recovering from the procedure, he will be limited in the spring.

As for Wade, the 6-foot, 215-pounder was a state Offensive Player of the Year at Middletown when he collected 7,778 passing yards, 100 touchdowns and over 1,000 rushing yards.

Wade started six games in his career at Boston College, completing 95-of-171 passes for 1,091 yards and five TDs. He was off to a promising start before suffering a serious left ankle injury early in his sophomore season.

“There’s an awful lot to like,” said Rocco. “I think Darius gives us a guy in here this spring that is very experienced, a guy that has certainly been to battle and a guy who has been in competition for a good bit of his college career.

“The style of play that they used at BC is similar to what we do and what we’re looking to do. So there’s a lot of carryover, I think, moving forward with Darius.”

Depending on Caruso’s status, Delaware’s top quarterbacks in the spring figure to be Wade, junior Pat Kehoe and redshirt freshman Nolan Henderson, the former Smyrna High All-Stater.

“With Nolan Henderson in the program, I think there’s some real hope and optimism there,” said Rocco.

Defensively, Delaware took some big steps in rebuilding its defensive line with the latest group of signings.

The Hens added three transfer defensive linemen in former William Penn High standout Frank Burton (Ball State), Caleb Ashworth (Cincinnati) and Brandan Hall (San Diego Mesa CC).

Finding some veterans who can play right away up front was critical given the graduation of four senior linemen, led by All-American nose tackle Bilal Nichols.

“I think that was a very obvious direction for us to move,” said Rocco. “I think we’re really fortunate that we were able to target the right student-athletes and make the kind of progress we needed to make.

“We have good players in there but you never have enough in the defensive line. So I do feel real good about the experience that Caleb and Frank will bring in. They’re a little more physical, a little more ready to go.”

Extra points

As well as the three transfers, Rocco said incoming freshmen Kedrick Whitehead (linebacker), from Middletown, and Robert Nochtman (offensive line) have both enrolled early and will take part in spring practice. … A defensive end, Hall is also is listed as a kicker. … Of the 21 total recruits that Delaware has signed, 14 are listed as defensive players.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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