Rocco trying to keep Blue Hens on track during break


NEWARK — Over the last couple weeks, Danny Rocco has learned some new things.
Like there really are shows on TV that don’t involve sports.
“People talked about Netflix,” said the Delaware football coach. “I didn’t even know what they were talking about.” Of course, Rocco has also spent a lot of time thinking about his football program, too.
The conundrum for every college football coach in the country is how do you keep preparing your team for a season when you’re not even in the same state as many of your players?
Rocco has done his best to come up with a routine with the players at home during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Blue Hens’ coaches meet online on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with the coaches then meeting with their position players on the days in between. Rocco is also going to “meet” with the entire squad — imagine 100 people on the same online conference call — on occasional Sunday evenings.
“This is an opportunity for them to put themselves to the mettle and work to be mentally tough,” he said, “work to persevere and overcome and find ways to deal with their circumstances.
“Some kids have access to fully-equipped weight rooms. Other guys are working at home with a (resistance) band. They both have got to maximize their situation. … The idea is to educate them the best you can, get them to understand their circumstances and then overcome and rise above.”
The Hens’ biggest upcoming challenge is starting classes back up on Monday but doing it online. That means worrying about details like making sure every player has access to a laptop at home and is diligent about answering emails.
As far as football is concerned, there’s no shortage of film to be watched or plays and formations that can be installed virtually.
Rocco said there’s two big things Delaware wasn’t able to accomplish because it missed spring practice. He really wanted to develop the Hens’ offensive line under new coach Bryan Stinespring.
Rocco also wanted to figure out a depth chart at quarterback behind starter Nolan Henderson (Smyrna).
“We’ve got three guys who are capable of backing up Nolan,” said Rocco. “They’re all uniquely different so there’s not a clear comparison. That’s what spring ball was going to do.
“Then, with the ‘O’ line, we have some new names and some new faces and a new coach.”
On defense, where the Hens have a new coordinator in Manny Rojas, Rocco said starters Colby Reeder, Kedrick Whitehead and Drew Nickles were all going to sit out spring practice. But Rocco is excited about Delaware’s experience and depth on both sides of the ball.
“I’m real optimistic about our ability to get us where we need to be,” he said.
The problem with all this, of course, is that there’s no concrete timetable for when teams will be able to practice again.
Some teams had full spring practices before things were shut down while other schools had almost nothing. The Hens had one session before school closed.
Rocco is hoping the NCAA will give programs that didn’t have spring ball some extra practice days at the start of pre-season camp.
Rocco is also hoping that the pandemic will be under control by June. UD starts its first summer session on June 8.
He calls it the next definitive “stake in the ground.” Most of the players should be back on campus then with the coaches having limited access to work with them.
“I think that summer-school piece is going to be huge,” said Rocco. “If you have everybody back for summer school, they can at least train together again. You can get them all up to speed as far as their conditioning. You can have that summer session to have that structure that you’re going to need heading into camp.”
Like most football coaches, Rocco is happiest when he’s got a game plan all worked out.
He loves to have a schedule in place and know what’s coming next.
But, of course, in the situation the world is in right now, nobody is quite sure what the next few months will bring.
“I think people look at guys like me — or coaches in general — and say that we’re control freaks,” said Rocco. “That’s not really the problem with me. I’m structured and organized so I’m going to put that structure and organization out there.
“What gets me is the unknown. The unknown is kind of what has me on my heels a little bit, just knowing that I’ve got to have some contingency plans. … It’s the unknown of, ‘Is June 8 a real date (to return to school)?’”
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.