Passing game main concern as Hens open spring camp

Dave Brock

Dave Brock

NEWARK — Dave Brock thinks he has the makings of a playoff football team.

Clearly, though, Delaware isn’t going to go very far if it can’t get its passing game off the ground.

Fixing the Blue Hens’ anemic air attack is probably as important a job as anything as Delaware opened spring football practice on Thursday.

Remember, the Hens averaged just 67.1 passing yards per game last fall, the lowest average among the 123 teams in NCAA Division I FCS.

“I think we’re talented,” said Brock, who is going into his fourth season as Delaware’s head coach. “I like the players. I’m excited about working with them.

“To me, the passing game is all about precision and timing. Let’s find out what we can do — and what we can do at a high level — and then go about the business of doing it.”

Probably the biggest difference since the fall for the Hens is that Brock is taking over the quarterback coaching duties.

Brock has been an offensive coach throughout his 28-year career but has mostly worked with receivers and tight ends as a position coach.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I love the passing game. I’ve certainly been around some good passing games when I was a coordinator. I’m really looking forward to getting involved and, ultimately, helping us all improve.”

Sophomore-to-be Joe Walker is still the frontrunner at quarterback. He started 10 games last season for the 4-7 Hens, completing only 70-of-158 passes for 605 yards with just one touchdown and six interceptions.

But, along with opening-game starter Blake Rankin, Delaware will get its first long look at redshirt-freshman QB Pat Kehoe this spring.

Brock said he liked what he saw from the 6-foot-3, 225-pound left-hander in the fall.

“Pat really had a great fall on the scout team,” said Brock. “He made an awful lot of plays and made it really, really hard on our defense. He made a lot of really competitive throws.

“I’ve seen a lot. I’m very comfortable with what he did and how he did it.”

The Hens’ inexperienced and injury-depleted receiving corps was also a major issue in the passing-game problems.

Starter Tre Brown isn’t expected back on the field until preseason camp as he recovers from a knee injury. The rest of the top wideouts and tight ends are all back, though, including sophomore Troy Gallen, who missed all last season with a hip injury.

On defense, Delaware appears to have more experienced players than it knows what to do with — especially at linebacker and defensive back.
The only three significant defensive players the Hens lost to graduation were all on the line.

In the secondary, Delaware gets back cornerback Malcolm Brown, a former starter who was sidelined by injury last fall. The Hens will also add transfer linebacker Troy Reeder, who started at Penn State last year.

Depth and the competition that come with it, though, are what will make the Hens better, says Brock.

“Certainly when you add good players into the mix, it rachets up everybody’s intensity level,” he said. “All those guys are working like crazy. And you know what? They’re going to have to. Getting snaps at linebacker for us is going to be a real, real challenge.

“I think, in those situations, you’re really going to get the best of both worlds. You’re going to end up with a lot of really good players and a lot of competitively tough players.”

Extra points

The Hens will hold their annual ‘Downstate Day’ at Smyrna High next Saturday. The event, which includes kids activities as well as featuring the UD men’s and women’s soccer teams, starts at 10 a.m. The football squad is slated to take the field at noon. … The football spring game is slated for May 7 at noon. … The Hens opened spring practice with 71 players. … Brock said Delaware is going to look at sophomore defensive back Maurice Harley as a linebacker in the spring. … Safety Simba Gwashavanhu and defensive end Cedrick Udegbee will sit out the spring with shoulder injuries. … Brock still expects to add a transfer or two over the summer.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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