Running back Randolph is Hens’ elder statesman

 

Hens’ running back Jalen Randolph had two touchdowns last week against Del State. Coach Dave Brock expects to get a lot of production out of the 22-year-old graduate student.  (File photo/Mark Campbell)

Hens’ running back Jalen Randolph had two touchdowns last week against Del State. Coach Dave Brock expects to get a lot of production out of the 22-year-old graduate student. (File photo/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — At 22, Jalen Randolph is hardly an old man.

But in the world of college academics, being a graduate student makes the Delaware running back feel like one.

“The setting is a little different, being in class with a bunch of 30, 40 50-year-old students as my classmates instead of 18-to-20-year-old kids,” said Randolph. “All my teammates are talking about going to ‘Psych 100’ and I’m like, ‘Well, I have my diploma hanging up in the living room.’”

Jalen Randolph

Jalen Randolph

Don’t get Randolph wrong. The Blue Hens’ elder statesman loves that he still gets to play football with all these youngsters.

After missing most of last season with a knee injury, Randolph admits he was even a little nervous when he got back on the field last Thursday in Delaware’s 56-14 victory over Delaware State.

“The first drive was a little weird,” said Randolph. “I was out there watching Wes (Hills). Then they finally called my number to put me in. I was like, ‘Wow, here goes, first carry.’

“I get nervous before every game but a little more so than usual (on Thursday). But after the first carry, it was like I had been out there the whole time. It felt great. I loved every second of it.”

Randolph showed he’s still a pretty good running back, finishing with 55 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 11 carries.

Coach Dave Brock, whose Hens (1-0) go to Easton, Pa., for a 6 p.m. matchup with Lafayette (1-0) on Saturday, said he always expects to get production out of Randolph.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder is a career 1,000-yard rusher who has scored 20 touchdowns at Delaware. More than anything, though, Brock says Randolph just knows what he’s doing — whether it’s carrying the ball, catching it or blocking.

Randolph came into the season averaging 4.9 yards per carry.

“He’s unbelievably productive,” said Brock. “He’s a complete player. He’s able to do anything that we ask him to do. He knows it cold — which is probably as good a compliment as I can give a player. He’s a leader.

“He and Wes, both those guys being back, I think everybody focuses on the on-field performances that we get. But there’s also an incredible impact in the locker room, there’s an incredible impact in their ability to lead, their ability to make sure that they get the group going in the right direction.”

Not surprisingly, Randolph is also a pretty smart guy.

He earned his degree last spring in health behavior science with honors. He’s now enrolled in Delaware’s MBA master’s program and is a member of the National College Athlete Honor Society.

Randolph, whose father, Pat, was a 1,200-yard rusher at West Virginia, says being a good student was always a big part of his childhood.

“My parents and my grandparents have always been on me about achieving and doing the best you can at everything,” said Randolph. “If you don’t, you’re only selling yourself short.”

It isn’t lost on Randolph that a lot of guys his age are already done playing football and out in the real world.

He’s not in any hurry to get there.

“I’ve got friends sitting at desks right now,” said Randolph. “This beats that any day.”

Hurting Hens

Thursday’s victory over DelState wasn’t without some losses.

The Hens had three linemen suffer perhaps serious injuries in the game: Defensive tackle Bilal Nichols, offensive guard Mario Farinella and backup center Peter Thistle. All three have leg or foot injuries.

Brock said that Nichols will probably be a game-time decision whether he plays this week. Farinella, though, is out and Thistle may be lost for the season.

As of now, senior Connor Bozick may move to Farinella’s starting spot at right guard with with sophomore Jethro Pepe then taking Bozick’s spot at right tackle.

At defensive tackle, if Nichols can’t play, the Hens still have Grant Roberts, Lloyd Badson and Bo Gipson available.

Taking it away

It was only two years ago that Delaware finished last in NCAA Division I FCS with just nine takeaways all season.

So senior safety Ryan Torzsa was pretty excited that the Hens came up with six turnovers against Delaware State.

“Thursday night was one of those things that doesn’t happen often,” he said. “I felt like the ball bounced our way — or came our way — every time. It’s something that we’ve emphasized.”

Besides Delaware, only two other FCS teams were plus-five in turnover ratio in their first games last weekend. One of them was this week’s Blue Hen opponent, Lafayette.

Three of the Leopards’ takeaways were on fumble recoveries in their 24-10 win at Central Connecticut State.

“Obviously we started off with a bang,” said Tarzsa. “I can’t say we’re going to get six every week but I was pleased with what we did.

“It was definitely a confidence booster. … But every week is different. We’ve got to go in with the same mindset of trying to get the ball away.”

Extra points

Junior Brandon Whaley, who didn’t play against DSU, is listed as the starting tight end for this week’s game. … Lafayette coach Frank Tavani was particularly impressed with the Hens’ 395 rushing yards in their season opener. “I’m a former tailback,” he said. “Any time you can run the ball like that, I’d be a happy guy. I wish we could get to that point.” … True freshman kickoff specialist Jake Roth had a number of touchbacks in the opener for the Hens.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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