Local college notebook: Wolverines still looking ahead even without season

Coach Arthur Smith, watching a preseason practice drill in a previous summer, has been named Wesley’s new defensive coordinator. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Chip Knapp says Arthur Smith couldn’t have learned from two better defensive coordinators.

And the fact that Smith played linebacker at NCAA Division III football power Mount Union doesn’t hurt, either.

So Knapp believes Smith is clearly ready to step up into the role of Wesley College’s defensive coordinator.

“He’s got a lot of experience under some great defensive coaches,” Knapp said about Smith. “It’s a pretty easy decision. There’s no question that he should be the defensive coordinator.”

Smith has been an assistant coach for the Wolverines through three seasons after being hired by Mike Drass. He then worked under veteran coach Joe Bottiglieri for the last two years.

Bottiglieri stepped down in the off-season after 49 years in the coaching business.

Smith’s promotion to defensive coordinator is just one sign that Wesley is continuing to go about business as usual despite having the fall season canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Wolverine standout Mike Sabino — the Lake Forest High grad — has been elevated to a full-time position as linebackers coach while Wesley is also planning on holding a workout camp starting on Aug. 14.

In his time at Wesley, Smith has coached both linebackers and the secondary, He was an all-conference linebacker at Mount Union, playing in a pair of Division III national championship games.

Smith also played in three different indoor leagues after he graduated.

“He lives and breathes football,” said Knapp. “He’s a great recruiter. He’s done everything that a defensive coordinator would need to do before becoming one.”

Sabino has been on the Wolverines’ coaching staff as a grad assistant since finishing his playing career as a standout linebacker for Wesley in 2017.

“He’s treated the job like a full-time job,” said Knapp. “He’s gone above and beyond as a graduate assistant. He’s been a great player for us, a great leader. He’s got a lot of other skills that are going to help our program.”

Knapp has also settled on his new offensive coordinator but is just waiting for the hiring to be finalized. That job was left open when long-time assistant Steve Azzanesi was hired at Delaware State.

As for the team practices, the Wolverines will have to follow some strict health guidelines, of course. Among other things, they will remain with the same players and coaches in small pods throughout the day.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Knapp. “There’s no coach’s manual for taking a team through camp when there are guidelines to follow. Our No. 1 priority is to keep the guys safe and the program is productive in the process.”

Testing time

One thing both Wesley and Delaware State officials think will help their return to athletic practices is the two schools’ COVID-19 testing.

Both are working with Testing for America, a nonprofit organization started by academics, engineers, and entrepreneurs to solve the testing issues in the U.S. DelState is one of the pioneers for the program aimed at HBCU schools.

On Friday, DSU’s athletic trainers and other personnel helped in conducting drive-though testing for essential university staff. The school estimates that as many as 7,000 tests will be conducted each week once the semester starts.

When DelState announced that the school is beginning the process of purchasing Wesley, officials said that Wesley would take part in the program, as well.

“That’s one big thing that is going to kind of relieve some safety concerns,” said Knapp. “We’ll have some certainty about who is positive. It will create more certainty on campus and with our team.”

Looking ahead

Every college athlete wants to be back on campus, getting ready for a season right now.

But DelState football coach Rod Milstead said sometimes it’s easy to forget what the structure of a college team can do for a young person.

“I miss it,” he said on Benjamin Bullock’s podcast ‘Crunch Time’ last week. “I know our players are chomping at the bit to get back on the field.

“They miss their friends, they miss the freedom. … For some kids, the college dorm room is their home. Sometimes it’s a better environment than the environment they grew up in. I get those calls daily — ‘Hey Coach, when can we come back?’ I hear the stories and it’s hurtful.

“College athletics … eventually we’ll get back to whatever the new normal will be. It’s probably going to be different going forward.”

Notes

• Delaware is offering different options for people who bought season tickets for this fall’s canceled football season (bluehens.com): Transferring payments to 2021, donating to UD athletics, receiving a full refund or a combination of all three. The press release noted that if there’s a spring season, tickets will be sold on a game-by-game basis.

• With the date for withdrawing from NBA draft consideration coming up on Monday, there’s still no word on Delaware standout Nate Darling’s decision.

Eric Anderson has stepped down after five seasons as an assistant men’s basketball coach at Wesley. He got to coach his son, Evan, with the Wolverines.

Kelly Anderson is stepping down after two seasons as Delaware’s women’s tennis coach (17-15). Blue Hens’ men’s coach Pablo Montana will handle the interim role of Director of Tennis programs and oversee both teams.

Anderson is going to attend physician’s assistant school at Idaho State.

• Elon, UD’s fellow CAA member, is attempting to play an independent football schedule. The Phoenix have just four games listed right now — with only one after September.