New coach Rocco ready to test Hens

 

Danny Rocco is only Delaware’s sixth full-time head football coach since 1940. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell )

NEWARK — Danny Rocco has been Delaware’s football coach since December.

And while he’s gotten to know his players the last few months, he certainly doesn’t know what they’re all about.

But Rocco said that will begin to change when the Blue Hens start spring practice today.

“I will know a lot more in the next five weeks than what I’ve learned in the first five weeks of this semester,” said the former Richmond coach.

Clearly, having a new coaching staff makes this Delaware’s most critical spring football practice since former coach Dave Brock was hired in 2013.

Rocco is only the Hens’ third new coach in the last 15 years.

He’s got a lot to sort out — and the players have a great deal to learn — before next season.

Before the Hens go anywhere, Rocco has his staff have to evaluate what they have. Of course, he already has a leg up on that having coached against Delaware the last several seasons.

“I was watching it (the film) for different things then,” said Rocco. “But there’s some things that we feel pretty good about — in terms of knowing what certain guys can do and what some general areas of strength may be. But I don’t want to assume too much.

“In the beginning, everybody will be starting kind of on even ground. It’s not higher-level football out there on Tuesday. … I want to see what they can do in the purest form. I want to see whether they can pass protect the speed rusher before I see whether they can handle a twist or a blitz.”

Of course, the fans are most interested to see how Rocco, along with new offensive coordinator Matt Simon, handles Delaware’s quarterback position.

Junior Joe Walker has been the starter the last two seasons but the Hens’ passing game as a whole has sputtered.

Delaware currently has nine QBs on the roster — including Smyrna High’s Nolan Henderson, who’s still in high school. Clearly Walker and sophomore Pat Kehoe are the frontrunners for right now.

Rocco said he’d like to come out of spring practice with four quarterbacks who know the system.

“We haven’t done anything where a football’s been out there,” he said. “Nobody’s been throwing or catching a ball (in formal workouts). I think it’s just kind of trusting the process for me.

“I have a lot of faith in the process. I feel real good that we’re going to come out of the spring knowing exactly where we’re at — having a real good feel of our areas of strength and depth and our areas of deficiency. We’ll then put plans together to advance our program and our team.”

Of course, adding transfers is always a possibility at almost any position.

The Hens are reportedly already bringing in 6-foot-6, 300-pound offensive tackle Noah Beh from Penn State.

Rocco said the rules allowing fifth-year graduate transfers have changed the transfer landscape significantly. At the same time, he looks at transfers as simply strengthening the team — not necessarily at coming in to take someone’s starting job.

“You’re seeing it more and more in FCS football and it’s even happening at the BCS,” said Rocco. “These kids are graduating and moving. You can’t put your head in the sand and categorically say, ‘We’re only going to do this or we’re primarily going to do that.’

“When things come your way, you’ve got to be open-minded to be able to make good decisions about putting your team together.”

Extra points

Delaware will practice Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for the next five weeks. Weekday practices are at 2:45 p.m. with Saturday sessions at 10:30 a.m. They are open to the public … The spring game will be played on May 6 at 6 p.m. at Delaware Stadium.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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