A way too early look at 2018 Delaware Football
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
Heading into year two of the Danny Rocco-era, Delaware will attempt to make the leap from fringe contender back to FCS powerhouse. After finishing 4-7 in both 2015 and 2016, Delaware finished 7-4 in Rocco’s first season as head coach, and fell just short of making their first playoff appearance since 2010. The Blue Hens will lose eight starters to graduation: offensive linemen Brody Kern and Jake Trump, wide receiver Diante Cherry, defensive linemen John Nassib, Bilal Nichols and Blaine Woodson and linebackers Anthony Jackson and Jalen Kindle. Below I run through players who could fill Delaware’s biggest question marks this season and represent the future core of the Blue Hens.
Nolan Henderson #14 Quarterback, Freshman
Two-time Delaware high school state champion Nolan Henderson could be the Blue Hens’ long-awaited answer at quarterback in 2018. Delaware has been routinely plagued by sporadic quarterback play since three-year starter Trent Hurley graduated in 2014 — finishing last in the CAA in passing offense in each of the three seasons since.
Henderson set state records with 3,380 passing yards and 36 touchdowns as a junior, before leading a ground-dominate attack to a second straight state title as a senior. As a true freshman in 2017, he did not see the field, but impressed while running the scout team against the first-team defense at practice. Rocco believes Henderson will make a “legitimate push” in spring drills and fall preseason when the Blue Hens plan to hold open competition for the starting spot. Other options include redshirt senior-to be J.P. Caruso and redshirt junior-to-be Pat Kehoe. Redshirt senior-to be Joe Walker is also a contender for the position though Rocco said Walker is “finding himself in a different world” after finishing the season as a wide receiver. If Henderson wins the job, he will be the first Delawarean to start at quarterback for the Blue Hens since Caesar Rodney’s Sam Postlethwait in 2001.
Colby Reeder #4 Linebacker, Redshirt Freshman
In his first season of action, Colby Reeder quickly rose from a timeshare at outside linebacker with Armen Ware to a full-time contributor. Reeder led Delaware in tackles for a loss (8), and finished second in interceptions (2) and fumble recoveries (2) en route to becoming the Blue Hens’ first CAA defensive rookie of the year since Blaine Woodson in 2014.
“He’s a great athlete, but now he has a better understanding of how to play his position and is starting to master some of the techniques at his position,” Rocco said midway through the season. “I think he’s got a really bright future.”
Reeder’s versatility is his greatest strength. Thrust into the KAT outside linebacker role due to Jasawn Thompson’s unexpected ineligibility in the preseason, Reeder thrived as both a hand-in-the-ground pass rusher and a zone defender. With former first team All-CAA selections Troy Reeder, Colby Reeder’s older brother and Charles Bell both expected to return, Reeder will likely stay outside but could move to the opposite outside linebacker position, “Bandit,” which Rocco describes as the most difficult position to play on his defense because it requires someone who can play in space, often isolated from box.
Once T. Reeder and Bell, both seniors, graduate, Reeder could make the move inside.
“There’s been talk about everything because I’ve played three out of the four, so I don’t really know where it will head yet,” Reeder said. “It kind of sort of depends on what we need. If we need a Mike, maybe after Troy leaves or something, I’d be comfortable stepping in the box and taking over his little torch.”
Salvatore Mauro #98 Defensive End, Redshirt Freshman
Salvatore Mauro was named Delaware’s most improved player on defense for spring drills entering his redshirt freshman season. Mauro split time with Cam Kitchen on the first team throughout camp, but despite showing early promise did not receive a start, even after Kitchen went down for the season against James Madison. Mauro was passed over for senior John Nassib, who turned in an impressive 39-tackle season, including five for a loss and four pass deflections. Now with Nassib and fellow senior defensive linemen Bilal Nichols and Blaine Woodson out of the picture, Delaware will have no choice but to dive into their depth. Mauro should be the beneficiary and receive ample playing time in a 3-4 scheme that should play to his strengths as a larger (6’2’’, 265 pounds), physical lineman. Rocco said Mauro is “certainly on the rise.”
Way-too-early 2018 Projected Starting Lineup
QB: Nolan Henderson
RB: Kani Kane
WR: Jamie Jarmon
WR: Vinny Papale
WR: Gene Coleman II
TE: Charles Scarff
LT: David Kroll
LG: Noah Beh
C: Collin Wallish
RG: Steve Robinson
RT: Jethro Pepe
DE: Sal Mauro
DT: Dominick Covatto
DE: Cam Kitchen
BLB: Colby Reeder
MLB: Troy Reeder
WLB: Charles Bell
KLB: Armen Ware
CB: Malcolm Brown
SS: Ray Jones
RVR: Nasir Adderley
CB: Nijuel Hill
K: Frank Raggo
P: Nick Pritchard