Five things to know heading into the 2019 football season
As Delaware wraps up their 2018 and appearance in the FCS playoffs, Head Coach Danny Rocco offers some thoughts for next season.
Managing Sports Editor
As Delaware finished up their 2018 football season, there were many things to reflect on such as an appearance in the FCS playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, the loss of a large class of seniors and the strengths and weaknesses on both offense and defense.
However, at his end-of-season press conference, Head Coach Danny Rocco also brought up many aspects to look forward to going into the 2019 football season.
“To our student athletes, in particularly our seniors, I just have a great appreciation for what their experience was like here over a four or five-year period,” Rocco said. “And I’m very happy and proud that they were able to break through and make it into the postseason and to kind of be the first team to do that since 2010. There’s a lot of moments of highs and lows and we certainly had a lot of highs this year, that’s something that our student athletes deserve to celebrate. I believe our foundation is set.”
Below are five things to take away from Delaware’s 2018 football season and into their next one.
Heading into next season, Rocco feels like for the first time at Delaware, he has a clear sense of what his quarterback situation looks like.
“I certainly feel really good about what Pat was able to do this year,” Rocco said. “Sometimes as things come to closure, it’s a little easier to have perspective for all of us so we’re always dealing with the heat of the moment and the importance and the significance of each week.”
Kehoe, who will be a redshirt senior, started off the season strong, helping the Blue Hens to a five-game winning streak midway through the season. He had his career day against Towson when he completed 18 of 32 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns.
Kehoe was battling a partially torn ACL injury late in the season and left Delaware’s second to last game with concussion symptoms. He was sacked five times in the final game of the season against James Madison and completed only 13 of 32 passes for 116 yards with two interceptions. Rocco credits a great deal of that play to the injuries Kehoe was facing.
“Pat will be at his best and I think we all have an image of what that looks like,” Rocco said. “So Pat at his best is pretty good and certainly capable of leading this team.”
When Kehoe was taken out of the Villanova game, Nolan Henderson stepped in capturing many plays that Rocco called “attention getting.” He went on to say that’s a “really good starting point” for the soon-to-be-redshirt sophomore.
Another quarterback option, freshman Anthony Paoletti showed what he is capable of while practicing with the starting lineup when it seemed he may have to jump in as quarterback against JMU.
“You’re hearing me talk positively and optimistically about a position that’s really been a position of uncertainty for a number of years in the past,” Rocco said.
Graduating a large and impactful class as well as looking to the young talent now
Delaware graduated over two dozen seniors many of which were starters. When Rocco joined the Blue Hens in 2017, he took over an experienced veteran team. Now for the first time in his experience at Delaware, he will be coaching a young class, building up the program while also building off of the progress made by the soon-to-be graduates.
“We have a lot of good, young talent,” Rocco said. “And it’s always a function of being able to manage your roster and your depth and we’re going to make the necessary decisions we need to make within our system to play to our talent and if we have to restructure we will and those conversations are occurring pretty much as we speak.”
Delaware’s secondary is graduating all four of its starters and looking to the younger faces. Redshirt freshman Justis Henley and Amonte Strothers are two promising names that will be looked at for the cornerback position.
The Blue Hens have many options at safety as well including freshman Noah Plack, who was seen in three games. Coming back off of a knee injury, Tim Poindexter will also be looked to along with the possibility of linebacker Kedrick Whitehead switching to safety.
Delaware’s graduating all of its go-to receivers as well, including Joe Walker, Vinny Papale, Jamie Jarmon and tight end Charles Scarff, leaving many spots open on the opposite side of the football.
To possibly somewhat of a surprise due to Delaware’s typically stout defense, Rocco said he will be “transforming our defense.” Rocco is looking to keep the 3-4 system that he brought with him to Delaware, but wants to use the personnel he has to the best of their ability.
With depth in the defensive line, Rocco could go to a four-man front more frequently, which was seen in Delaware’s game against JMU.
“Since we have a lot of depth in the D-line, we’re moving from D-line to cat, cat to inside, inside to outside, outside to safety, safety to corner,” Rocco said. “But that’s the way for us to distribute our talent and when you kind of look at that, you say I like the lineup and we have to put it all together and go out there and play, but I like the lineup.”
Transfers and incoming freshman
Come Wednesday, Dec. 19, Rocco is looking to sign 10-12 high schoolers to join the Blue Hens. But incoming freshman are not the only players Rocco is searching for.
For the first year, any player looking to transfer has to submit his name to a list, making the search for players a little easier for coaches. Just like being able to see the list of rising freshman — allowing coaches to see their possible players — coaches can now see every single one of the transfers as well.
“I don’t know that there’s ever a year where you don’t feel the necessity to bolster a position with something other than just incoming high school players because you need some older guys,” Rocco said.
Future offensive coordinator
Matt Simon, who joined the Blue Hens in 2017, will not be returning to the program leaving a major position vacant.
Rocco will be looking both within his current program as well as externally for someone who has experience as an offensive coordinator, preferably at the FCS level, as well as someone who is not “married to one system.”
“There’s a lot of different applicants and pools of applicants and it’s exciting to look through all that,” Rocco said. “I do think I’m looking for, as I stated, a body of work that does speak to having done the job, maybe even having done the job at this level, understanding this level, understanding the geography, the competition, the scholarship limitations.”