Rocco expects UD offense to be more dynamic

NEWARK — Danny Rocco has coached plenty of defense in his career.

So nobody has to tell the Delaware football coach about the headaches that a fast-paced offense can give a defense.

“We’ve played against it so many times with so many different schools,” said Rocco. “We see it so often. I do think that there’s a lot of value in it.”

Now the Blue Hens are anxious to see what they can do when they’re the ones who are pushing the tempo of the offense.

Switching offensive coordinators and going to more of a hurry-up attack is clearly one of the biggest changes this fall for Delaware, which held its final preseason scrimmage on Tuesday night in Delaware Stadium.

With former Towson OC Jared Ambrose now at the controls of the Hens’ offense, Delaware expects to have a much more dynamic attack when it takes the field on Aug. 29 in its season opener against Delaware State.

Senior offensive lineman Chuka Ezeuzoh, for one, is excited about the offense’s potential.

“I love the no-huddle offense,” he said after Tuesday’s session under the lights. “It gets the defense tired when you move at a faster pace. You get in a rhythm so much faster now,

“You definitely have to be in shape for a no-huddle offense. We definitely tried this summer to get in the best game shape possible. I think we’re ready for this year.”

Rocco is encouraged by what he’s seen from his team as a whole.

The Hens are coming off a 7-5 season in which they made the NCAA FCS Division I playoffs for the first time since 2010. They’ve been ranked in the Top 25 in the preseason polls.

“What we did yesterday and today is something I’ve been doing for 14 seasons,” said Rocco, who’s starting his third season as UD’s head coach. “This is the best we’ve ever done. There is a purpose with this team right now, there is a focus with this team.

“They came out here, they worked, they performed, A lot of things need to get better … but I feel good to be in this position, in this moment, as we wrap up camp and get ready for the start of the season.”

As for the offense, Rocco sees a difference in a unit that struggled at the end of last season. The Hens lost their final three games of the year while scoring a total of just 30 points.

On Tuesday, though, Delaware made a number of big plays.

“Holistically we’re a better-looking offense team right now — execution and particularly in the passing game,” said Rocco. “

Senior quarterback Pat Kehoe has looked especially sharp throwing the ball — and occasionally running with it — in the new offense.

The 6-foot-5 left-hander looks a lot more mobile than he did at the end of last season when he was hobbled by a knee injury. Rocco, though, loves the poise that Kehoe brings to the field as much as anything.

“He’s the most mature player on the field,” said Rocco. “He’s the most poised player on the field. And that’s a really good place to have that player.

“He’s enjoying the offense — they’re all enjoying the offense. They get in a little rhythm and they make some plays. We’ve got a number of different guys that we can go to, to make things happen for us.”

Ezeuzoh said he thinks the offense has a chance to be “way more dynamic” than it’s been.

“I feel Coach Ambrose has done a great job to set this offense up,” he said. “With the fast pace and the quick hits, big shots, it’s a smooth offense.”

Knight time

With senior Andre Robinson battling a hamstring injury, Will Knight has seen even more action at running back.

Rocco said the Smyrna High grad has had a few ups and downs in his first season at Delaware after transferring from Old Dominion.

But he said Knight’s overall performance in preseason has him looking forward to seeing what the redshirt freshman can do.

“Will is very gifted,” said Rocco. “He really is tailor-made for this offense and this system. He is extraordinarily talented.

“He got off to a great start, I think he hit a little bit of a plateau … but I think he sorted everything out this week. He’s certainly going to be out here carrying the ball for us this year.”

Ready to go

Sophomore defensive back Justis Henley saw some playing time in all 12 games last season.

But being counted on to be a starting cornerback — like he is this year — is a far different situation the youngster admitted.

“On first string, everybody is counting on me,’ said Henley. “Especially playing cornerback. When you mess up out there, everyone knows exactly what number it was, who it was.

“I just want to come through for my teammates and do the best I can at helping us win.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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