Young Blue Hens look to grow up fast

NEWARK — They’re a little bit like kindergartners on the first day of school.

Freshman football players, said Vince Hollerman, are just a little too amped up on the first day of practice.

“Just calm down,” joked the Delaware senior defensive lineman. “Just calm down. Everybody’s just so excited, so hyped up — scared even.

“Just calm down and listen. (But) they won’t.”

Blake Rankin (left) and Joe Walker, who are battling for the starting QB job, throw at practice on Saturday. (Delaware sports information/Donna McBride).

Blake Rankin (left) and Joe Walker, who are battling for the starting QB job, throw at practice on Saturday. (Delaware sports information/Donna McBride).

There was certainly no shortage of energy — nervous or otherwise — when perhaps the youngest Delaware football team ever hit the practice field on Saturday afternoon for the start of preseason camp.

There are only eight seniors on the Blue Hens’ roster of 90-plus players. On the other hand, there are 42 freshmen — including 26 of whom are right out of high school.

For that matter, there are also only 18 juniors. That means about two-thirds of the Hens’ roster is made up of sophomores or freshmen.

So the biggest thing before Delaware opens the season on Sept. 4 by hosting Jacksonville is getting all those youngsters on on the same page.

“It’s funny because you feel like the old guy around here a little bit,” said senior defensive lineman David Tinsley. “I asked (a freshman) after we got off the field, ‘How was it?’ He goes ‘It’s a lot faster than what we thought it was going to be.’

“They’re still a little bit in the fog and trying to see what’s going on. But hopefully they’ll catch up.”

“What I tell the younger guys as soon as they come in is ‘Just relax,’” said senior offensive tackle Ben Curtis. “Football and dealing with the coaches, it’s going to be tough no matter how you look at it.

“A lot of these kids come in and they’re very tense. And when you’re tense, your mind doesn’t work the way it normally does, your body doesn’t move how you want it to move. The key is to be relaxed and just try to absorb as much informataion as you can so you can get yourself better.”

All that youth, though, doesn’t mean Delaware’s veterans aren’t excited about the season.

The Hens think they clearly have more depth than they’ve had in recent years. They also believe there’s a lot of talent in their last two recruiting classes.

“I think when you first look at them, you just see the size immediately,” said Tinsley. “I think some of the energy they come out here with is just amazing. Being a fifth-year guy, we’ve been in the same routine for five years. We know what to expect, we know what’s going on.

“Well then they come out here, fresh out of high school with all that energy, you just feed off of that. It’s awesome.”

But the one thing third-year coach Dave Brock doesn’t want is for those youngsters to sit back and wait for their turn.

The more they push for playing time right away, the better the team will be, he said. Clearly some of the newcomers are going to have to play right away.

“Youth isn’t an excuse,” said Brock. “We’re really excited about the young players we have. … It’s fun to come to practice. It’s like you’re investing every single day in a player and you’re going to get a three-year return.

“A lot of guys, when they come in, I think sometimes they don’t feel like their time is now. As a coaching staff, we’re really trying to get them to understand that we want their time to be as soon as it can be.”

Brock would get no arguments from his small group of seniors,

While all the talk about the Hens’ bright future is nice, their football future is now.

“This is my last go-around,” said Hollerman. “So we’ve got to make it happen.”

QB race even

One position where Delaware is definitely inexperienced is at quarterback.

With redshirt freshman Joe Walker and former Rutgers transfer Blake Rankin battling for the starting job, the Hens don’t have a QB who’s taken a single snap in a college game.

That’s the first time Delaware can say that since 1989, when future star Bill Vergantino was a redshirt freshman.

Brock said the plan right now is to decide on a starter by the second preseason scrimmage.

“It’ll be a fierce competition,” said Brock. “Those guys are going to get a ton of reps. They’ll both get more reps than a normal ‘1’ would get in a normal training camp. We’re going to try to make sure we make a great decision for the program.”

On Saturday, Walker completed a pair of long passes down the middle of the field, one to Troy Gallen and the other to Jerrell Harrison.

Extra points

Delaware’s first scrimmage is slated for Friday at 7 p.m. … Former starters Roman Tatum (cornerback) and Donte Raymond (linebacker) aren’t on the roster and Brock said their future with the program is still up in the air. … Receiver Quai Jefferson, who earned national attention for being the caregiver for his mother, who has MS, is no longer with the team. … Indian River High grad Jamie Jarmon, who moved from quarterback to safety in the spring, made a juggling interception on Saturday.

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.

 

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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