Hens’ Yocum says team’s future’s still bright

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Kyle Yocum

NEWARK — It all could have fallen apart in a heartbeat.

When Delaware fired football coach K.C. Keeler in January 2013, the recruiting class that he and his staff put together might have scattered like leaves in the wind.

But Kyle Yocum wouldn’t let it.

A quarterback in the class, Yocum is credited with helping convince most of those recruits to still become Blue Hens.

“Part of it was, I liked the guys I was coming in with,” said Yocum, now a redshirt sophomore fullback for Delaware. “We already started a bond and I didn’t want to just throw that out the window.

“And I was kind of looking at the future — ‘Man, we could really make a difference between us guys. Why break that up and go somewhere else?’”

At moments like this, after Delaware (2-3 CAA, 3-5 overall) was shut out by Towson, 19-0, on Saturday, there’s not a lot of people outside the program talking about how bright the Hens’ future is.

Delaware has now been blanked twice in its last three games going into Saturday’s homecoming matchup with Albany (1-4, 2-6). Kickoff is at noon for the Colonial Athletic Association contest.

Still, the Hens play just four seniors. They also beat William & Mary, which is now ranked No. 12 nationally in Division I FCS.

Yocum, for one, still thinks this team’s best days are in front of it.

“We can’t make that excuse that we’re too young,” he said. “We’re old enough to do what we need to do. We’ve obviously shown that against teams like William & Mary.

“But I 100-percent agree that we’re going to be great. I mean I see it. You see small bursts of it here and there from us. But, for the fans, I think they just need to be patient. It’s going to come along and they’re going to see what they want to see.”

Some of that optimism comes from the comaraderie of this group. It’s what Yocum saw in his class three years ago when he helped talk them into sticking together.

Just about all the original recruits ended up coming to Delaware.

“This is the closest team I’ve seen in the three years I’ve been here,” said Yocum. “We always hang out with each other. There was none of that two years ago.”

Offensive woes

For an offensive-minded coach like Delaware’s Dave Brock, the Hens’ loss at Towson didn’t sit well with him.

Delaware managed just 102 yards — the sixth-lowest total in recorded program history — to go along with only six first downs and zero points. It’s the first time the Hens have been blanked twice in the same season since 1964.

“Few times in the years I’ve coached have I been more frustrated,” said Brock. “Everybody wants there to be a reason, everybody wants there to be an excuse. But there aren’t any excuses. We have to play better, we have to play more consistently, we have to coach better. That’s what it comes down to.”

Of course there were a lot of things that went into Delaware’s anemic offensive showing.

For one thing, the Hens’ defense allowed Towson’s offense to hold onto the ball for 38 minutes of the 60-minute contest. Delaware ran just 40 plays compared to the Tigers’ 75.

Brock said film showed that there were times when the offensive line missed blocks or the running backs didn’t hit the hole.

Because of youth and injuries, the Hens also don’t have many options at wide receiver right now.

Of Delaware’s 58 receptions this season, 19 have come from Diante Cherry or Jamie Jarmon. Nine more catches have come from Tre Brown, who’s out for the year with a knee injury.

The remaining receivers have combined for just one reception. The Hens are averaging only 67 passing yards per game, the second-lowest average among the 123 FCS teams in the country.

Just as he did immediately after the game on Saturday, Brock said on Monday he didn’t consider replacing quarterback Joe Walker with backup Blake Rankin.

Walker completed only 3-of-9 passes for 14 yards with an interception.

But Brock said that doesn’t he mean he would never take out Walker in a game.

“I’m not telling you I won’t do that,” Brock said about giving Rankin some playing time. “We certainly have to be better, without question. But the way we need to play with the team we have right now, we need to play like we’re capable of playing — and have played.

“I would feel differently if we hadn’t done it. … Now we need to get the players to play that way consistently. And that’s a coaching issue. I don’t look at it as a player issue.”

Extra points

Freshman defensive back K.C. Hinton dropped a sure interception and perhaps touchdown in the first half against Towson. Brock said the youngster actually knocked the ball out with his knee as he started to run. “You’d have loved to have made the play for the kid,” said Brock. “My guess would be he scores if he catches it and stays on his feet.”  … Safety Simba Gwashavanhu has two of the Hens’ five interceptions this season. … Defensive tackle Bilal Nichols had a rare interception at the line of scrimmage at Towson. … Delaware and this week’s opponent, Albany, have both been shut out twice since the beginning of October.

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