Hens’ Darien having fun as receiver

NEWARK — Some players can only dream about being a part of the mighty Penn State football program.

And Dae’lun Darien says he made a lot of good friends in his three seasons at Happy Valley.

But he also says he wasn’t exactly having fun there, either.

“If you’re not having fun, it takes a toll on you,” Darien admitted after a Delaware practice on Tuesday morning. “But I’m starting to have fun again.”

Dae’lun Darien, who saw action in 17 games at Penn State, knows it’s still going to take him some time to get back up to full speed as a receiver. UD sports information/Mark Campbell

Of course, part of the reason that Darien is having fun again is that he may finally have found a position.

A receiver when he first went out to Penn State out of Baltimore’s Dunbar High, Darien switched to linebacker. So he was a linebacker when he transferred to Delaware last winter — only to be quickly switched back to receiver a couple weeks into spring practice.

With the Blue Hens getting ready to host Delaware State in their season opener on Aug. 29, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Darien has shown flashes of being a pretty big receiving option for Delaware — in more ways than one.

The junior was particularly impressive in one practice last week.

“That’s the best day he’s had,” coach Danny Rocco said afterward. “If that’s what he’s capable of doing, he could really be a significant contributor this year. … He’s coming into his own a little bit.”

Darien, who saw action in 17 games at Penn State, knows it’s still going to take him some time to get back up to full speed as a receiver.

As a youngster, ESPN labeled Darien a three-star recruit after he had 50 catches for 700 yards as a senior at Dunbar. He was a Small School All-Stater.

Darien said he put in a lot of practice time over the summer so he could “get back to my roots” as a pass catcher.

“It’s a lot of detail — a lot of detail,” he said. “I’ve gotten better. And with a good camp I can be even better.

“I believe I can be a good threat in the red zone. I want to start working on catching the ball in space and getting away.”

Of course, with his size and defensive background, there’s no reason Darien shouldn’t be a good blocker, too.

“I love hitting people,” said the former high school defensive end. “Blocking, that’s something I want to do.”

Darien is part of a relatively-new receiving corps that will step into bigger roles after the Hens graduated Joe Walker, Vinny Papale and Jamie Jarmon. Juniors Gene Coleman and Thyrick Pitts are probably the most experienced players at the position with former William Penn High standout Chichi Amachi the only senior wideout.

With six freshmen among the 14 receivers Delaware lists on its roster, the Hens may ultimately use a number of different players there.

“At that receiver position, there’s a lot of talent,” said Rocco. “But there’s not a lot of production from a year ago. So, as different people step into different roles, it’s not like you’re losing a lot of production.

“In the moment, they’re so much more interchangeable. There’s six, seven or eight of them that I honestly think can go in a game at this level, be productive and make plays.”

Darien figures to be one of those guys who gets a chance. But he also knows that playing receiver is more complicated than just running around trying to get open.

Dae’lun Darien said he put in a lot of practice time over the summer so he could “get back to my roots” as a pass catcher. UD sports information/Mark Campbell

“It is different at the college level,” he said. “You’ve got to really focus on running routes. Like, in high school, I didn’t really have to run routes like that. I ran a go route, a slant, a dig — something like that.

“When I got to Penn State, Coach (Josh) Gattis taught me a lot of things. I’m just trying to get back into that. … I’m just trying to take advantage of my last two years and get back to having fun with football.”

Extra points

Delaware doesn’t have any formal scrimmages on its preseason schedule but is slated to have referees at its usual 8:45 a.m. practice session this morning. … The main structure of the renovated home stands at Delaware Stadium is now complete with workers attaching different forms of blue seating to the sections. … Fourth-year junior tight end Brent Reed from Cape Henlopen High is expected to miss the season after suffering a knee injury.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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