UD football team has a lot to figure out in offseason

NEWARK — Delaware’s football players started the season with NCAA playoff dreams dancing in their heads.

They ended it with their second straight 4-7 season, the program’s first back-to-back losing campaigns since 1939 and a search for a new coach.

Clearly, there was a lot of head scratching for the Blue Hens, who finished their season with a 41-10 drubbing at the hands of rival Villanova on Saturday.

“Something’s got to change, in all aspects,” said sophomore linebacker Troy Reeder. “The way that we worked last year got us to 4-7. We’ve got to change the way we attack things before the season starts.

“I’ve only been here for one season but I thought it was a really good offseason program. I thought we had a really good spring ball. But it just shows that, in this league, it’s not good enough to be good. And that’s got to be the motto going into next season.”

For now, Delaware is in limbo until it hires a new head coach and staff.hens-dennis-dottin-carter

For the time being, interim head coach Dennis Dottin-Carter said the program will continue as if nothing has changed. He and the staff will start offseason conditioning programs and continue recruiting until someone tells them any different.

Until that happens, Dottin-Carter said he’ll keep trying to make the Hens better.

“As we go into this offseason, we’re going to look to work harder than we’ve ever worked,” said Dottin-Carter. “There will be more motivation than there’s ever been by the young men in that locker room.

“We’re going to have over 90 guys coming back. Each and every last one of those guys is going to be hungry. … I’m excited to see what happens with these young men in the offseason. I know they’re going to work their butts off. I hope I’m here to see it. If not, I’ll be watching from afar. I certainly will give everything I’ve got to help these guys as long as I can.”

Delaware loses just 11 seniors from this year’s squad. And only four of them started in the season finale.

Of course, the Hens also had a lot of returning players coming into this fall only to get the exact same results.

Dottin-Carter said he still believes there’s a great of talent in the program. But he also said it’s “absolutely frustrating” that the Hens didn’t improve over last season.

“There’s a lot of ability in our locker room, I have no problem saying that,” said Dottin-Carter. “I believe it 100 percent. I absolutely think we need to do a better job coaching it.

“At the end of the day, you can have all the talent that you want. (But) you still have to make the plays on Saturday. We just need to find a better way to win games. … We’ve got to figure out where we went wrong, where’s the disconnect.

“There can be no stone left unturned when we’re talking about how we’re going to get the talent in the locker room and coaching staff to actually show itself with wins on Saturdays.”

If there’s one thing that Delaware clearly seems to need to fix, it is its passing game.

Again the Hens finished near the bottom of the FCS national stats, ranking 120th out of 122 teams at 97.2 yards per game. Sophomore quarterback Joe Walker completed 77-of-159 passes for 954 yards with six interceptions and only three touchdown passes.

But the issues seem to extend beyond quarterback to receiver, where only three players reached double digits in receptions. Junior Diante Cherry led the way with 27 catches for 331 yards and three TDs.

Dottin-Carter said he still believes in Walker’s ability as a QB. The youngster also ran for 389 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“Everyone’s got to develop, everyone’s got to work to get better,” said Dottin-Carter. “Joe is a great student of the game.

“I think it’s a matter of just continuing to build on what those guys have.”

As for Dottin-Carter, there is a widely-held belief the former defensive coordinator won’t be hired as the Hens’ next head coach. If so, he’d be the shortest-tenured Blue Hen football coach since Lt. Milton Arronwitz led UD to a 2-2-1 record in 1918.

But Dottin-Crater also seemed to handle the interim job well, going 2-3 after head coach Dave Brock was released from the job six games into the season.

“It’s been absolutely stressful right from the beginning,” Dottin-Carter said with a smile. “It was a whirlwind right from the beginning and it was all the way up to the end of the season.

“But I certainly have enjoyed it. It was new and I really didn’t know how to feel about it — other than stressed and excited. I look forward to being a head coach in the future.”

For the players coming back, however, their future starts now. Even without knowing who their head coach will be, Reeder said it’s still up to them to get better before next fall.

No one wants to go through another rough fall.

“It’s hard to think that we need to be even tougher on ourselves but that’s the reality,” said Reeder. “That’s the way we’re going to attack things.”

Extra points

While Delaware’s back-to-back losing seasons were a first for the program in almost 80 years, every other current member of the CAA has had two straight losing seasons just since 1995. … The Hens are slated to return 18 players from the final two-deep depth chart on offense and 20 on defense. … Delaware ranked 14th in FCS in rushing yards at 227.7 per game. … The Hens committed the fewest penalties in FCS with 40 for 356 yards.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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