Feb 12, 2013, 11:05 AM EDT
Editor’s Note: With National Signing Day officially in the books, over the next three weeks we will talk with local journalists and bloggers covering our 11 schools to get their take on the teams that they cover. Each day will be devoted to a different program. Today we talk with Kevin Tresolini of The Wilmington News Journal about the Delaware Blue Hens.
You were there for Coach Dave Brock’s National Signing Day press conference, where he appeared pleased with his signing class. What were your thoughts on this year’s class, especially given the recent coaching staff changes there.
I thought they were happy with the way it turned out. It was obviously a very unique situation that he encountered because Delaware had already gotten what turned out to be 15 verbal commitments before K.C. Keeler was let go on January 7.
Dave Brock’s charge when he came in was to not recruit any new players but to make sure that the 15 who committed originally would stay committed to Delaware. The Delaware athletic director had called all of the recruits after Coach Keeler’s dismissal and told them that their verbals were still good and to sit tight while we get a new coach in here.
It was 11 days between the hiring and the firing, and Coach Brock got right to work after he was hired traveling up and down the East Coast visiting each of the guys. He actually traveled as far south as Orlando. He ended up getting all but two of the recruits, which is probably isn’t a bad average.
I talked to three of the recruits, and all three just raved about Dave Brock and the feelings they got after meeting with him in person. Each one had no trouble committing all over again to Delaware once they met him.
Is the coaching staff done recruiting or should we anticipate additional guys signing at this point?
I wouldn’t have any reason to anticipate anyone else signing. I don’t think they will, but it’s always possible. And I’m not exactly sure what the scholarship number is. That’s such a fluid thing anyway with kids deciding not to come back and things like that. That can change pretty quickly. His big thing now is to put together a coaching staff because he really doesn’t have much of one.
Will we see him putting together his coaching staff pretty quickly at this point?
Yes, I don’t think he’ll have any challenges. He has a lot of contacts at all of the places he’s been, and Delaware is a place where people like to be assistant football coaches. He said that himself the other day.
What particular holes were the Blue Hens looking to fill with this year’s class and how successful were they in accomplishing that?
Obviously time will tell, but I know from talking to Coach Keeler’s staff that around the time of his dismissal, they thought this was a very, very good class. They thought their last couple of classes were pretty good, and they thought this one was equally as good and had a lot of potential. You never want your freshman class to be brought in to help you immediately, but there’s always the hope that some guys will be able to help you right away.
The place where they can use a little bit of help right now is in the secondary, where they have some losses due to graduation. The good thing about that is that from my observations over the years, the secondary is often a place where a freshman can step in and perhaps more easily than with some other positions. There were a few defensive backs in this recruiting class, so I guess that’s a possibility.
With Delaware being a smaller state, to what extent does the coaching staff concentrate on local talent versus recruits from out of state?
There are no local kids in this year’s group, but you have to remember that there are only about 50 high schools that play football in the state. So it’s actually kind of rare that Delaware would have an in-state kid in its recruiting class.
When you talk about Delaware recruiting locally, you almost have to count Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland in that group. You really have to extend it out that widely. They did do well in those areas.
Delaware as a state only annually has a few top prospects anyway. It had a couple of FBS kids this year, one of whom went to Rutgers, and the rest are playing at the FCS level or below. This year there just weren’t many Delaware kids the program went after.
This program clearly has a long tradition of success. With that said, what are the draws that keep bringing such quality talent to campus?
Well, I think you just mentioned it. It’s the winning tradition. There’s such a great football history at the University of Delaware: Six national championships, only nine losing seasons since 1940. There’s just a great tradition. If you mention Delaware Football around the country, people are kind of familiar with it, whether it’s because of the Wing-T Offense or because of Tubby Raymond winning 300 games or because of the helmets that look like Michigan’s. Whatever it is, people are familiar with Delaware Football.
Delaware is always one of the biggest attendance draws in the FCS. Attendance has flipped a bit in the last couple of years, but they’re still one of the top programs. And the gameday atmosphere is just great. It’s one of the best around and certainly one of the best at this level.
Then you take into account the non-football aspects. It’s a very good school. I’ve been to a lot of college campuses around the country, and there aren’t many college campuses that are more beautiful than the University of Delaware.
What have football alums like Joe Flacco done for the program?
I think without a doubt having alums like him helps. Delaware has a long history of putting quarterbacks in the NFL – Rich Gannon and Joe Flacco being the most prominent. And what Joe has done lately has certainly brought even more welcome attention to the Delaware Football program.
At first glance, how do you think UD’s class stacks up to others around CAA Football?
I think it’s just a matter of waiting for time to tell. You can’t really make an assessment until down the road. I guess you could look at it in terms of some schools who got kids who had some FBS offers that they turned down in order to come to a CAA school. That would certainly give those schools an edge now.
Delaware didn’t really have a lot of those kids. They have a safety named Justin Watson from Friendship Collegiate in D.C. who had Hawaii and Northern Illinois looking at him. Jalen Kindle, a linebacker from Fleming Island, Fla., took a visit to Western Kentucky after the coaching change but stuck with Delaware and another Florida guy, Roman Tatum, is a cornerback out of Florida who had some looks from South Florida. The quarterback, Kyle Yocum, had interest from Buffalo, but it was mainly FCS schools with him as well – Villanova, Bucknell, Colgate, Lafayette and schools like that.
So I think that’s one way you can compare, but I haven’t read enough about the other programs to see which programs around the league has kids who had some bigger offers.
Can you touch on a few of the guys who stand out to you in this year’s class?
I think Kyle Yocum from Exeter Township in Reading, Pa., has some potential. He’s a kid who was a four-year starter and had some success both as a runner and as a passer. He threw a lot of touchdown passes and scored a lot running. I’ve spoken to him a few times and he really seems to have a great personality. Coach Brock said he’s a guy with a dynamic personality and a leader who also happens to have really good skills.
Blaine Woodson is a defensive lineman from East Stroudsburg, Pa., and is kid that Dave Brock said is ideal for a place like Delaware. Justin Watson, the safety out of D.C., will also be someone to watch on defense. Jake Trump is an offensive lineman from Mechanicsburg, Pa., and comes out of a solid program. He’s a kid who missed his senior year because of a knee injury and is bouncing back from that. Brody Kern, who was a guy Old Dominion jumped in on after the coaching change but stuck with Delaware, is a kid that they project as a center and will be pretty good. Roman Tatum out of Florida is a cornerback who they think has some pretty good cover abilities. Diante Cherry is wide receiver and not a big kid, but he caught a lot of passes and sounds like he’s pretty good at getting the ball and doing a lot with it when he gets it in his hands. There’s also Wes Hills from Wildwood, N.J., who’s a really good linebacker and running back, so they have a couple places where they could play him. As I mentioned before, Jalen Kindle is a linebacker from Florida, and Brock said the more he watched him the more he liked him. Larry Spears, who’s a linebacker from Richmond, also looks good at the position.
And keep an eye on Ryan Torzsa, who moved from Florida to North Carolina this year and missed some games with a knee injury. He’s also a safety and sounds like he’s a kid who could maybe play pretty quickly, whether it’s on special teams or coming off the bench in nickel or dime packages.
In addition to the 13 high school recruits who signed, a pair of transfers and a greyshirt have also signed. Can you speak to the addition of these three and what they will bring to the program?
Eric Patton is a local kid and was actually in last year’s recruiting class. I don’t even include him in the stuff I’ve been writing on this year’s class. They just greyshirted him, so here’s this spring. He’s a local kid from St. Elizabeth High and a two-time state player of the year on defense as a linebacker. He was also a great fullback. His brother is actually going to Rutgers this year as a wide receiver. They’re built totally differently. If Eric had played this past year at Delaware, he would have probably gotten in a few games as a true freshman given the team’s injuries among its linebackers and as talented as he is.
The other two are Kennedy Ogbonna and Jordan Thomas. Ogbonna played at ASA Community College in Brooklyn for two years. It’s an interesting case with Thomas. He transferred from Rutgers. Dave Brock never coached him and had nothing to do with his coming to Delaware. Both of these guys transferred to Delaware before Brock was named head coach. Thomas left Rutgers before Dave Brock got there, so it was interesting how he transferred from Rutgers and then Brock came as well, but they didn’t know each other at all before arriving here.
Thomas was a kid who was recruited to Rutgers as a wide receiver and ended up leading them in rushing as a true freshman. He only had around 417 yards and was also a return guy. He was then switched to defense as a sophomore and was only a backup before leaving Rutgers to presumably run track somewhere. But then he didn’t do that and now he’s at Delaware listed as a running back. It’s really an interesting situation.
Do you see anyone in this signing class as having the ability to step in and vie for a starting spot in 2013?
Again, the kids in the secondary probably have a chance because Delaware has some openings there. That’s a spot where freshmen can play pretty quickly; at least that’s been my observation over the years. That group would include Ryan Torzsa, Justin Watson and Roman Tatum. I think those three guys would have a shot among this group of freshmen to make a contribution right away.
Coach Brock joins his signees as a new addition to the program. What will he bring to this new era of Delaware Football?
I know I keep saying time will tell, but I think that applies here, too. It’s going to be interesting. He’s never been a head coach before, so that’s a little bit of a mystery. He hasn’t really said what kind of offense he’s going to run other than his philosophy is to attack on offense and on defense, so I think that’ll be something that people are excited about.
I’m sure that we’ll have a better idea of the shape his offense will take when he brings a coordinator in [Delaware has since hired Sean Devine as its offensive coordinator] and things begin to settle down in terms of what his staff will look like.
He also hasn’t really had a lot of time to spend with the players who are already here because he’s spent so much time recruiting, so he’s said that’s his first job now. The kids who I’ve talked to have been impressed with him so far. One player said to me that he was really impressed that Dave Brock looked at them in their first meeting and said, “Listen, this is not my team. This is your team.” They seemed to really appreciate that.
It’s going to be a transition though. He’s only the fifth head coach at Delaware in the last 73 years, so everyone will be sitting back and wondering what we have here.
What has been the reaction to his hiring in and around Newark?
It’s been very mixed. A lot of people were very surprised that K.C. Keeler was let go. Some people thought that it was wrong. Some people didn’t have a problem with it. The positions really ran to the extremes.
I think people were a little curious that Delaware didn’t bring in somebody whose credentials were a little more impressive. Dave has a nice resume without a doubt, but I think there are some people who are still wondering. So he certainly has something to prove.
There’s also a large number of Delaware followers who were kind of hoping that they would dip into the Delaware family and pick a coach who had some ties to Delaware Football, either as a former player or as a former assistant coach or both. There’s certainly a lot of great candidates in that regard. When K.C. Keeler was hired in 2002, that was the route that they went. When it briefly appeared that they were going outside that route back then, there was a bit of a mutiny and the coach that was selected was not ultimately chosen and they went with someone who was from the Blue Hen family in Keeler.
This time it seemed like they purposely went outside the Blue Hen family. And that did kind of bother some people. So Dave Brock has to win games and he has to win over the fans.
I know it’s early, but what can we anticipate from the Blue Hens in 2013?
Delaware should be good. That was the feeling after last year. While they were 5-6 and only won one of their last seven games, they were close in a number of them. They lost a tough overtime game to Towson, which should have been an NCAA tournament team, and lost another tough one to Old Dominion down in Norfolk.
They came out of the year feeling like they were close to being pretty good, and considering they’re only losing one starter on offense, they came out of 2012 thinking that they’ll be good in 2013. They still feel that way with the coaching change. Dave Brock said that the day he was hired. They expect to be all the things in 2013 that Delaware fans expect from the program, which is being a CAA Championship contender and a national title contender.
They have a couple holes to fill on defense. Their secondary lost a couple guys. Paul Worrilow was a great linebacker and one of the greatest players in Delaware history, which is a tough loss. A couple other guys on defense graduated as well. But they seem to have some guys waiting in the wings who can step in.
Offensively, quarterback Trent Hurley started as a sophomore last year and it looked like he had some ability. They have an All-American tailback in Andrew Pierce and a great flock of wide receivers. The offensive line had some growing pains this past year, but they’re all back.
So there’s no reason to think that they can’t compete for the CAA Championship and get back into the playoffs this fall. We just don’t know what plays they’re going to be running.
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