Switch to DE paying off for Thompson, Hens

NEWARK — Officially, Jasawn Thompson has played linebacker the last several years.

But he’s always been a defensive end at heart.

“It feels more natural to me,” said the Delaware sophomore football player. “I feel like I can just play faster. I don’t have to do all the thinking involved with it (linebacker). The thinking makes me slow down.”

Thompson won’t get any arguments from the Blue Hens coaching staff.

In his two games since moving from linebacker to defensive end, the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder has three sacks and a forced fumble. Even though he’s played somewhat sparingly on defense, Thompson now has a team-high five sacks for losses of 37 yards.

Delaware’s Jasawn Thompson sacks Towson QB Ellis Knudson, forcing a fumble in Saturday’s game. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

Delaware’s Jasawn Thompson sacks Towson QB Ellis Knudson, forcing a fumble in Saturday’s game. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

Delaware (1-4 CAA, 3-5 overall) hopes the youngster will continue that trend when the Hens go for their second-straight win at Albany (2-3 CAA, 5-3) on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Jasawan Thompson

Jasawn Thompson

Along with playing Thompson at end, the Hens are also using him more in passing situations.

“He hasn’t done anything different, we just made the decision to play him more,” said interim coach Dennis Dottin-Carter, who is also Delaware’s co-defensive coordinator.

“The initial thought was to have him as a pass rusher. With the defensive line, you’ve got to rotate those guys in and out, they get tired. You get a fresh body like him, who’s big, who’s strong, who’s fast and quick. … he’s a problem for offensive tackles.

“We have capable guys but when you have a fresh body like Jasawn, you can’t just leave him on the bench.”

Thompson really hasn’t played defensive end since his freshman season at Deer Park (N.Y,) High. Back then, his brother, Aaron, was starting as the other defensive end spot.

Aaron Thompson is now a standout senior defensive lineman at Stony Brook, which just came to Newark two weeks ago. With their one chance to play on opposing teams, Aaron was sidelined with an injury.

“I’ve been trying to play that game my whole life,” said Jasawn. “To find out he was hurt, I was a little upset. He was mad because he knows some of the players here. He came to visit. He was ready to show that he can play.”

Now, of course, Jasawn Thompson is getting the chance to show that he can play.

He admits he was a little frustrated being stuck in the Hens’ logjam at linebacker.

Of course, Thompson is also one of many young Delaware players stuck in a strange situation at the moment. After Dave Brock’s firing, nobody knows who Delaware’s head coach will be next season.

The Hens start just three seniors and have only six seniors on their two-deep depth chart.

“That’s just how it goes, I guess,” Thompson said about getting a new coach. “I’m trying to just focus on the rest of the season now because we can’t do anything about it. I’m just taking it as keep moving forward and keep playing the best you can play.

“I feel like we’ll still have a foundation and we’ll be ready for whoever comes in and takes Coach Brock’s place.”

Sticking with the (game) plan

The trick play that Delaware pulled out on Saturday couldn’t have worked much better.

Receiver Diante Cherry lobbed a  nice, 21-yard touchdown pass to running back Jalen Randolph that gave the Hens a spark in their 20-6 win over Towson.

But even though Delaware really doesn’t have anything to lose in the last three games of the season, Dottin-Carter says the Hens aren’t suddenly going to use every fleaflicker they have in the book.

“We’ve got to stick to what we do, there’s no question,” he said. “The temptation is there, just because you want to keep the guys focused, you want to give them a little more juice. But we have to be smart.

“We can’t just be out there, willy-nilly, trying different things and new things ‘just because.’ We have to have a plan for it to work, otherwise you’re just wasting time.”

On the other hand, the Hens did incorporate a little bit of Wing-T into a running play on Saturday. There are still assistant coaches on Delaware’s staff from their Wing-T days, after all.

Dottin-Carter said you might see it again.

“You’ll find out on Saturday,” he joked. “It looked good. I’m glad it worked.”

Hills a question mark

It’s certainly been a strange season for Wes Hills.

When he’s been healthy, the Hens’ standout running back looks great.

The junior has twice run for over 200 yards in a game while totaling 584 yards and five TDs on the ground in just four contests.

But Hills has also missed most of the other four games with an elbow and then a hamstring injury. He didn’t play against Towson because of the leg injury.

“He’s day to day,” said Dottin-Carter. “He’s battling, he’s working to get back on the playing field. He wants to do it for his teammates. He certainly feels like he’s got something to prove.”

Extra points

Starting tight end Brandon Whaley (ankle) will probably miss the rest of the season after suffering the injury on Saturday. … Delaware has also been hit hard by injuries again at receiver where both Troy Gallen and Vinny Papale are out for the season. … Tight end Kyle Yocum, though, might be able to return from an injury this week. … Junior linebacker Charles Bell needs 11 tackles to become the 46th Blue Hen all-time with 200 career stops.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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