Local college notebook: After adding Knight, Rocco excited about Hens’ running backs

Will Knight, shown during his All-State championship days at Smyrna High, will suit up for the Delaware Blue Hens this fall after transferring from Old Dominion. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

NEWARK — As far as Danny Rocco is concerned, Delaware’s football coaches started a relationship with Will Knight a couple years ago.

That relationship didn’t end just because the Smyrna High standout chose Old Dominion over the Blue Hens.

“There was a lot of time invested on both sides — both with Will and his family and our staff,” said Rocco, the third-year UD head coach. “There were a lot of positive relationships built.

“Will had been on our campus numerous times, he’d been in our camp, he knew a lot of our players, he knew a lot of our coaches.”

So Rocco wasn’t surprised that, when Knight decided to leave ODU, he transferred to Delaware.

Knight’s transfer only became more or less official this week when UD began its summer academic session. Rocco couldn’t publically discuss the former All-State running back until then.

Knight, of course, first verbally committed to the Blue Hens before signing with NCAA Division I FBS Old Dominion. He played in four games for the Monarchs last fall.

While Rocco would have rather had Knight all along, he also knows the 5-foot-10, 210-pound running back has developed after spending a full school year at a Division I program.

Will Knight first verbally committed to the Blue Hens before signing with NCAA Division I FBS Old Dominion. He played in four games for the Monarchs last fall. Delaware State News file photo

He said there’s always growth when any player goes through the learning process with a new school and team.

“Will went through that and did well, obviously, finding himself in the lineup,” said Rocco. “So now he’s got to do it again but he’s already done it.”

The addition of Knight, who has four years of eligibility remaining, has Rocco pretty excited about the potential of the Hens’ backfield this fall.

Delaware has a returning starter in junior DeJoun Lee and a senior in former Penn State transfer Andre Robinson, who was named the most Improved Offensive Player of spring practice.

Rocco said Knight’s versatility should allow him to fit right in.

A 6,490-yard rusher at Smyrna, he also caught 78 career passes for 1,722 yards and 20 touchdowns. Often lining up as a solo back in the Eagles’ earthquake formation, Knight also completed his share of passes.

“With Robinson and Lee and Knight and then with (true freshman Quincy) Watson coming in, it’s a pretty darn deep and talented position for us,” said Rocco. “So we’re excited about that.

“We feel obviously like our offensive line should be good — and hopefully can be really good. So to be able to have some options at running back, both in the run game and in the pass game, I think could be really valuable for our team.”

Wesley fills schedule

For the last few months, Chip Knapp knew the Wesley College football team had a gaping, three-week hole in its 2019 schedule.

With only nine games on the slate, the Wolverines went from a Sept. 14 date at Delaware Valley to an Oct. 5 game at Rowan without a contest.

“That’s three weeks without playing any competitive football,” said Knapp, Wesley’s head coach. “That’s something that we’ve never experienced. We’ve had some tough times scheduling games but we’ve never had a gap like that. It was a little nerve wracking for a while.”

Head coach Chip Knapp was pretty excited when the Wolverines recently came up with a 10th game. They’ll go to Endicott — a small, private college in Beverley, Mass. — for a 1 p.m. game on Sept. 21. Delaware State News file photo

So Knapp was pretty excited when the Wolverines recently came up with a 10th game. They’ll go to Endicott — a small, private college in Beverley, Mass. — for a 1 p.m. game on Sept. 21.

The Gulls are a two-time conference champion (2010, ‘13) who now play in the Commonwealth Coast Football Conference. They went 7-4 a year ago.

“It’s a big relief,” Knapp said about finding a 10th game. “Our guys work hard all year and you want to make sure you give them the maximum amount of contests. Playing less than 10 games, that’s not going to do it.”

Wesley was left with two open dates this fall after Frostburg State and Southern Virginia both left the NJAC. Franklin Pierce and DelVal are the Wolverines’ other non-conference opponents.

UD’s Walter gets chance

After tearing the UCL ligament in his left elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery, Brandon Walter thought maybe his major league baseball dreams were over.

The Delaware left-handed pitcher missed the end of the 2017 season and all of the ‘18 campaign for the Blue Hens as he rehabbed the injury.

But on June 5, Walter took the first step toward the majors when he was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 26th round of the MLB draft.

“Even in the fall, I still didn’t really feel like myself,” the Hodgson grad was quoted on Bluehens.com. “It was long. It was kind of frustrating at times. You just have to realize that it’s going to get there eventually, have to trust the process with all that.

“It means a lot to me,” Walter said about being drafted. “It’s definitely something I’ve wanted to do since as long as I can remember.”

While he still has one season of college eligibility remaining, Walter expects to sign and report to the Lowell (Mass.) Spinners, Boston’s Class A Short Season affiliate.

Notes

• Delaware also recently picked up a linebacker in Virginia transfer Javar Garrett. The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder is actually from Newark but played at The Peddie School (N.J.) in high school.

Garrett, who also played at Penns Grove, N.J. High, was ranked at the No. 27 player in New Jersey before his senior year and was rated as a three-star recruit.

• After a big freshman season for the Virginia baseball team this spring, former Cape Henlopen High standout Zack Gelof is playing for the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Growlers of the Northwoods League this summer. Gelof started all 56 games for the Cavaliers, batting .313 with 13 doubles, 32 RBI and 38 runs scored.

• The Wesley football team has been announcing its football recruiting class on Twitter. Caesar Rodney High kicker/punter Joe Delgado is among the 20 players announced so far.

Of course, in Division III, players don’t sign a national letter of intent. Coaches never know for sure whether a player is coming until they register with the school and send in their deposit.

“We celebrate every time we get a confirmation,” said Knapp. “We get excited about it. The coaches all text each other when we get the notification. … It’s a very fluid, flexible kind of situation.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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