Local college notebook: Hens’ Rocco aims to connect with high school coaches

New head football coach Danny Rocco poses for a photo in the Hen locker room. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

DOVER — The Dover Downs ballroom was filled with high school football talent on Monday evening.

But new Delaware coach Danny Rocco said he didn’t come to the Delaware Interscholastic Football Coaches Association All-State banquet just to be seen by potential recruits.

Rocco said he was genuinely interested in connecting with the Delaware football community.

“I think so often there’s a misconception that the coach shows up only to recruit,” said Rocco. “And I really don’t think that is the reality of what we do.

“I want to be able to be an ambassador for our state in football. And a big part of that is being connected to the high school coaches association.”

Rocco was only hired as the Blue Hens’ coach on Dec. 14. With his father and two brothers both long-time high school football coaches, though, it’s a world he’s very familiar with.

The former Richmond coach is expected to have some in-state players in his first UD recruiting class, which can officially sign and be announced by the school on Wednesday.

Of course, in the social-media age, most of the recruits have already announced their college choices on Twitter.

When Smyrna High quarterback Nolan Henderson announced he was going to Delaware, he had a picture of him in his Eagles’ uniform with the helmet altered to look like a blue-and-gold UD one.

And most recruits now get their photo taken in that college’s jersey when they go an official visit — even if they don’t end up going to that school.

So while receiver Thyrick Pitts — who verbally committed to the Hens this week — has a photo of himself in a Delaware jersey, there’s also one of him in an Army jersey on his Twitter page.

Rocco agrees that social media has clearly changed the recruiting world.

“The immediate reinforcement of information is kind of a double-edged sword,” he said. “There is a positive aspect to it in terms of ‘messaging’ and ‘branding’ and propaganda and generating and creating momentum.

“(But) I think that, on the other side, every thought, every idea, every statement that someone might make, kind of gets out there. I think it’s allowed the recruiting process to be a little more fluid — in terms of back and forth instead of just linear. It’s part of the landscape right now.”

Smyrna signees

Smyrna expects to have four players signing letters of intent on Wednesday.

Along with Henderson, Jerren Carter (West Virginia Wesleyan) and twins Josh and Eli Hutchinson (Shepherd) will be signing with NCAA Division II programs.

But with the two-time Division I state champion Eagles having a big junior class, there figures to be more college signings next winter.

That group of recruits is led by standout junior running backs Leddie Brown and Will Knight.

Brown already has offers from Maryland, West Virginia and Boston College, among others.

Knight, the state Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore, has an offer from Coastal Carolina, which is transitioning to the Division I FBS level.

Smyrna coach Mike Judy thinks Knight really proved himself by having a second big season.

“I think some of it was, ‘Who is this kid?’” said Judy. “‘He had a great season, can he do it again?’

“I think when he did it again, and they see how dynamic he is, it’s like, ‘OK, this guy’s not a flash in the pan.’”

Notes

• Artis Hemmingway, a 6-2, 220-pound defensive end from Pope John, N.J., High, announced on Friday afternoon that he’ll be signing with Delaware.

• Polytech High grad Juwan Gray started and played 38 minutes for San Diego at No. 3 Gonzaga on Thursday night. Gray led San Diego with five rebounds and also chipped in five points as the Toreros fell 79-43 in the West Coast Conference contest.

• The Delaware State men’s basketball team is last in the MEAC in defensive rebounds per game with 20.8.

• Devaughn Mallory (Polytech High) has missed DSU’s last seven games with a calf injury. The Hornets are 2-5 without him on the floor.

• NaJai Pollard is averaging 18.8 points and 9.9 rebounds for the DelState women’s basketball team.

• Tyreik Burton, a Cape Henlopen High product, is the top scorer for the Thiel College men’s basketball squad with 18.2 points per game.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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