Kane now a star running back as Blue Hens open camp

That Kani Kane ended up being the Blue Hens’ leading rusher was one of the bigger surprises of Delaware’s 2017 season. UD sports information photos

NEWARK — A year ago, Kani Kane seemed like not much more than a spare part.

The former Sussex Tech High standout came to Delaware as a preferred junior-college walk-on last summer.

With at least a few veteran running backs ahead of him on the depth chart, Kane looked like he might just add depth at the position.

That Kane ended up being the Blue Hens’ leading rusher was one of the bigger surprises of Delaware’s 2017 season.

Now, as the Hens’ opened preseason camp on Wednesday, Kane is a marquee player — even earning a spot on the pre-season all-Colonial Athletic Association team.

But the senior would rather just look at himself as another guy trying to earn playing time in the Hens’ crowded backfield.

“The expectations are high right now,” Kane said as his teammates warmed up behind him. “We have a lot of backs. … so it’s going to be a competitive year at the running back spot. We’ll see how it goes.”

Kane, who is listed at 6-foot, 240 pounds, said he’s worked on his speed and agility over the summer. He’d like to be quicker without losing his ability to muscle his way through the line.

“Like Coach (Danny) Rocco said, I’m a power guy,” said Kane, who ran for 594 yards and seven touchdowns last fall. “I mean that’s still there. … (But) I think I’m a little nastier now. Last year I was kind of laid-back and trying to groove myself in the system.

“It’s my last year so I’ve got to go out with a bang.”

Delaware certainly has an interesting array of running backs going into the fall.

Along with Kane, senior Kareem Williams is a veteran 1,000-yard rusher while sophomore Khory Spruill is an up-and-coming player who got experience last year. The Hens also have former Army transfer Dejoun Lee, who redshirted with the Hens last year, and Penn State transfer Andre Robinson, who just came to Delaware this summer.

Rocco said the biggest step Kane can make this season is to have a more-thorough understanding of the playbook.

“A lot of times for a ball carrier, they’ve got four or five plays that they’re very comfortable with,” said Rocco. “Maybe a concept or two in the passing game, maybe a protection. But that limits him in how much he can be utilized.

“So the more things he can do at a high level, the more likely that he’ll be out there more frequently.”

Senior safety Nasir Adderley can tell you that it’s not fun trying to tackle Kane in practice.

“He’s a great talent,” said Adderley. “His combination of size and speed, you don’t see that often. … I saw in the spring, the improvement, just the vision, everything.”

After playing his first two seasons at Lackawana Junior College, Kane has already come a long way. But he wants to go even farther.
“I know the plays, the system now,” he said. “I think it’s going to help this year.

“Getting to know all the players, there’s just a big bond now. I know everybody and they know me now.”

QBs to get looks

Of course, one of the biggest battles in Delaware’s camp is the one for the starting quarterback job.

J.P. Caruso started the final six games of last season before undergoing shoulder surgery. The Hens then picked up former Middletown High star Darius Wade, who transferred from Boston College.

Both players are fifth-year seniors.

“I do want to have — especially early in camp — opportunities for a number of guys to be out there with our starting offense,” said Rocco. “Just to be able to have some command and some presence and have some weapons to get the ball to. The first week is going to be pretty spread out (among the QBs).

“And then the next week we’ll really try to hone in on a definitive path to move forward.”

Extra points

Running back Thomas Jefferson, whose career trailed off after earning CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, wasn’t expected to use his last year of eligibility at Delaware. But Jefferson was on the field Wednesday where he was working out with the tight ends. … Delaware has added St. Francis transfer Austin Gray, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound fifth-year senior defensive lineman. … Bill Harman, who has been the analyst for Blue Hens’ men’s basketball radio broadcasts for a few years, will be the analyst for Delaware football this fall with play-by-play man Scott Klatzkin on WDSD-FM.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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