Veterans get young Hens ready for opener

NEWARK — Ben Curtis has played in 32 college football games.

So the Delaware senior offensive tackle knows what he’s talking about when he tells the younger Blue Hens what to expect on game night.

“You don’t want to throw them into the fire,” said Curtis. “You want them to understand that the main focus is, no matter what happens, just stay calm.

“Panic is not part of the game plan and we want to make sure our players know that.”

Certainly, though, there will be more than enough butterflies to go around when Delaware opens its season on Friday night by hosting Jacksonville at 7 p.m.

Offensive tackle Ben Curtis (69) and defensive lineman David Tinsley (72) are two of only seven seniors on Delaware’s roster going into Friday’s season opener. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

Offensive tackle Ben Curtis (69) and defensive lineman David Tinsley (72) are two of only seven seniors on Delaware’s roster going into Friday’s season opener. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

Not only do the Hens have only seven seniors but 52 players are in only their first or second year of playing college football.

But if that makes third-year coach Dave Brock a little nervous about how all those youngsters will react under the bright lights, he prefers to look at the situation as exciting.

“With a roster as young as ours, I can’t wait to see what it looks like,” said Brock. “I’m as excited about watching all these young guys play. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

“You want to see how they react,” he added. “There’s more significant consequences to mistakes, greater glory for plays made. It’ll be interesting.”

Most notably, Delaware is slated to have a pair of true freshmen starting in its secondary — cornerback Nasir Adderly and Ray Jones, the former Hodgson All-Stater. Jones will start in place of junior Simba Gwashavanhu, who Brock announced on Monday is suspended for the game.

Brock said he expects at least seven true freshmen will see playing time on defense this week.

And they’ll be going up against a Jacksonville offense that starts seven seniors, led by quarterback Kade Bell, who threw for a school-record 3,181 yards a year ago.

Like Brock, the Hens’ veteran players are anxious to see how the youngsters will react to a game situation, too.

“We’ve seen them in practice for a month and a half but, come Friday night, the bullets get flying for real,” said senior defensive tackle David Tinsley. “A lot of them look great in practice but I’m excited to see what they do on Friday.

“The game’s a little bit faster so I try to tell them about the speed of the game. But, for the most part, it’s football. I try to tell them to just go out there and have fun, don’t overthink it.”

Rotating QBs

Brock said on Monday that there will be a pre-determined plan on how he’ll use his two starting quarterbacks in the opener.

While the flow of the contest will also play a role, Brock said he wants both Blake Rankin and Joe Walker to get some equal opportunities.

“I’ll make the decision of how we’ll do it — whether it’ll be by series or a quarter each, those types of things,” said Brock. “I think the most important thing is you want to give each player an opportunity to get into a rhythm, each player an opportunity to play well.”

It’s the first time since 1989 that Delaware hasn’t had a QB on the roster with any college playing experience.

That was the season that Billy Vergantino took over as the starter. He ended up not missing a game in four seasons of a Hall of Fame career.

Depending on how the season unfolds, it might be the first time the Hens have had a real quarterback rotation since Brian Ginn and Matt Nagy shared the job in 1999.

Jarmon catching on

Jamie Jarmon may have only played receiver for a couple weeks but the former Indian River High standout could start at his new position against Jacksonville.

Brock hasn’t decided yet whether Jarmon or senior Rick Bell will start at the ‘X’ position.

Clearly, though, Brock thinks Jarmon can make some plays. He was at quarterback in the spring before starting preseason as a safety.

“I hope we can do a great job by him in the game, get him involved early and let his natural ability take over,” said Brock. “I think he can be a special player with the ball in his hands.

“I’m excited about watching him. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen … but I don’t think he’ll be short on opportunities on Friday.”

Despite the fact that Jarmon has moved around so much, Brock said he’s been very happy with the 21-year-old former minor-league baseball player.

“He’s in great shape,” said Brock. “He’s been a great teammate. I’m really pulling for him to have success and validate all the hard work he’s done in terms of coming back and being a part of the program.

“I think he’s been very mature. He’s done a great job in the classroom. … He’s really been awesome to deal with, awesome to coach. He’s one of the highlights certainly of training camp.”

Extra points

Along with Gwashavanhu, Brock said that redshirt freshman tight end Andrew Grau (Cape Henlopen) is also being suspended for Saturday’s game. … Besides the two defensive backs and Jarmon, the other true freshmen on Delaware’s two-deep depth chart are backups Owen Tyler (tight end), Vinny Papale (receiver), Cam Kitchen (defensive end), Jason Thompson (linebacker) and Tenny Adewusi (cornerback) … Former All-American receiver James Anderson will be the honorary captain for Friday’s game. … Brock planned to announce the team captains to the squad on Monday evening.

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