Hens load up on defense, add standout Pa. quarterback with December recruiting class

NEWARK — For a lot of college football coaches, the month of January was nothing but a headache.

After working for months to get high school recruits to verbally commit to them, coaches had to keep recruiting those players to make sure another school didn’t lure them away.

So sure, Delaware coach Danny Rocco was pretty happy to see the NCAA add Wednesday’s early signing day.

“I know by tomorrow morning, we’re all going to know who’s off the table,” Rocco explained. “It really eliminates the reality of the poaching that goes on.”

The early signing day seemed to work just fine for the Blue Hens as Rocco and his staff announced that 14 high school recruits signed with Delaware on Wednesday.

That class included 10 defensive players but also one quarterback — Anthony Paoletti of Marple-Newtown (Pa.) High. With Smyrna running back Will Knight changing his mind, Middletown’s Kedrick Whitehead was the only instate signee.

Eight of the recruits were from Pennsylvania. The Hens do expect to sign at least a couple more players in February, when the traditional signing day is held.

Rocco said Delaware signed so many defensive players to balance out the roster, which was more offense-heavy at the moment.

As for Paoletti, Rocco said he wasn’t ready to concede that the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder wouldn’t push for playing time right away.

A first-team All-State pick as a senior, Paoletti is the all-time passing leader in Delaware County history with 7,048 career yards and 73 touchdowns.

“I think Paoletti will be able to come in here and compete early,” said Rocco. “I do think that the development of our quarterbacks in the spring will dictate more to how closely we would look at trying to advance him in the summer.”

What impressed Rocco just as much as Paoletti’s football skills was his character. He said he and the Hens’ coaches kept hearing what an impact the youngster has made in his community.

“They’re not talking about how well he runs or how far he throws the ball,” said Rocco. “They’re talking about how active he has been in the school and in the community helping others.”

A two-way player at Middletown, Rocco said he expects Whitehead to play defense for the Hens. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder, who is expected to enroll at UD early and take part in spring practice, could play either linebacker or safety.

Seven of the 14 recruits are potential linebackers.

“What he showed me was a lot of versatility,” Rocco said about Whitehead.

Among the other notable recruits on Delaware’s list are 6-foot-3, 290-pound ofensive lineman Robert Nochtman, whose father works at Penn State, and linebacker Liam Trainer, whose father, Joe, is the former head coach at Rhode Island and is now the defensive coordinator at the Hens’ rival, Villanova.

Then there’s cornerback Amonte’ Strothers, a 6-foot-2, 190-pounder from Steel Valley, Pa. who had an offer from Purdue. Rocco didn’t expect him to sign on Wednesday.

“We were on him for a long time,” said Rocco. “He had no intention of signing today. …. (But) as the week progressed, he kind of felt that this is the right time and place.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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