Delaware Blue Hens

Danny Rocco has Delaware football believing in quick turnaround

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Danny Rocco has Delaware football believing in quick turnaround

It would seem the last thing Delaware football players wanted to hear from new coach Danny Rocco at his first team meeting this past winter was what he thought worked better at his former school, Richmond.

Rising senior center Brody Kern didn't mind. As Rocco spoke, Kern and others agreed with him.

"That's kind of how he started with changing this program around," Kern remembers.

"He thought our team was very, very talented, but he thought our mental approach to the game was not there. He made comparisons that he thought Richmond players knew that they were going to win, and he didn't see that in us."

Now that he's gained an up-close-and-personal view of the Blue Hens, Rocco is even more convinced their struggling program's fortunes will improve sooner rather than later. They may not have as good of a season as Richmond, which was picked second in the CAA Football preseason poll Tuesday at media day in Baltimore, but their fifth-place prediction in the deeply talented 12-team conference suggested the rest of the conference feels strongly in Rocco's work.

Delaware is coming off two straight 4-7 seasons - their first consecutive losing records since 1938 and '39 - and plummeted to 10th place with a 2-6 CAA mark last year. But the pollsters sure think the Blue Hens will be competitive with the likes of preseason No. 1 James Madison, the defending CAA and FCS national champion; Richmond; third-choice Villanova; and fourth-choice New Hampshire. All four were FCS playoff qualifiers last season.

"It's not really a negative or positive," senior linebacker Charles Bell said of the prediction. "We haven't really finished that high up, so right in the middle, we can't really complain. But, ultimately, we want to be No. 1 at the end of the season."

Said Rocco, "I've kind of been in this league long enough to know that there's always one team that's kind of the middle-of-the-pack team that is relevant late in the year. ... Do we have a chance to be that team? Most certainly, as do a few others. But I think that's a fair assessment of where we are heading into (preseason) camp."

In Rocco, the Blue Hens are finding him to be a players' coach. He's organized and focused, and driven to see them succeed.

Even members of his former program can't deny Richmond's loss was Delaware's gain. Their Oct. 21 game at Delaware Stadium will be as much about emotion as X's and O's.

"He really valued those relationships with his players, and I'm sure if you ask the Delaware guys, they'll tell you the same thing," Richmond's two-time 3,000-yard passer Kyle Lauletta said. "He really vouched for us and he did a lot for every student-athlete on our team. So we're very close with him and it was sad to see him go.

"It was a little bit weird having our coach go to a team in the same conference. We'll use it as motivation. The last thing we want to do is dwell on it and let it affect our preparation for next season. We just put it behind us. We look forward to playing them, beating them and beating all the other teams on our schedule."

With Delaware boasting a senior class that's 20 deep, Rocco has stressed the responsibility of having a "win today" mentality.

The Blue Hens, who haven't made the playoffs since their 2010 championship game run, boast three CAA preseason selections, with senior nose tackle Bilal Nichols joining Bell and Kern.

They'll try to improve their passing game with senior quarterback Joe Walker and become more balanced alongside one of the CAA's better run attacks with backs Wes Hills, Thomas Jefferson and Kareem Williams. The defense should be strong with nine returning starters, although Delaware must adjust from the switch of a 4-3 base alignment to a 3-4.

Rocco says there's no textbook way to lift a new program, that what he did previously at Liberty was different than what he did at Richmond. Considering program histories, Delaware more resembles Richmond.

"The fan base's beliefs and expectations are similar to mine," Rocco said. "I would not have made the transition if I did not think that we could return to and then sustain (success)."

Said Kern: "We realize with the history of Delaware, if you don't have a winning season, you get forgotten about by fans, by the CAA, by other teams in the CAA.

"It makes us want to change things."

James Madison, coming off its second FCS national title, not only was the prohibitive favorite in the CAA's preseason poll, earning 21 of the 24 first-place votes, but it had the most players on the preseason team with six. Leading the way was senior quarterback Bryan Schor, the conference's 2016 offensive player of the year and its preseason choice.

Although it was picked ninth, Maine had the second-most preseason selections with four. Albany, Delaware, Richmond, Stony Brook and Villanova had three each.

Villanova senior safety Rob Rolle was the preseason defensive player of the year.

Key CAA football games

Richmond at James Madison (Nov. 11) - The visiting team has won the last three times in this heated rivalry.

Five More: Maine at New Hampshire (Aug. 31); Villanova at Albany (Sept. 23); Villanova at James Madison (Oct. 14); Richmond at Delaware (Oct. 21); Richmond at Villanova (Nov. 4)

CAA football preseason poll

Head coaches and sports information directors poll

1. James Madison (21 first-place votes), 241 points

2. Richmond (3), 210

3. Villanova, 209

4. New Hampshire, 169

5. Delaware, 133

6. Albany, 129

7. William & Mary, 124

8. Stony Brook, 118

9. Maine, 100

10. Towson, 84

11. Elon, 36

12. Rhode Island, 31

CAA football preseason team

Offensive Player of the Year - Bryan Schor, QB, James Madison

Defensive Player of the Year - Rob Rolle, S, Villanova

Offense

QB - Bryan Schor, James Madison, Sr.

RB - Stacey Bedell, Stony Brook, Sr.

RB - Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, Albany, Jr.

RB - Deontez Thompson, Richmond, So.

FB - Anthony Manzo-Lewis, Albany, Sr.

WR - DeVonte Dedmon, William & Mary, Sr.

WR - Neil O'Connor, New Hampshire, Jr.

WR - Micah Wright, Maine, Jr.

TE - Jonathan Kloosterman, James Madison, Sr.

OL - Jamil Demby, Maine, Sr.

OL - Chris Durant, William & Mary, Sr.

OL - Brody Kern, Delaware, Sr.

OL - Timon Parris, Stony Brook, Sr.

OL - Aaron Stinnie, James Madison, Sr.

Defense

DL - Andrew Ankrah, James Madison, Sr.

DL - Malachi Hoskins, Albany, Sr.

DL - Bilal Nichols, Delaware, Sr.

DL - Brandon Waller, Richmond, Sr.

LB - Charles Bell, Delaware, Sr.

LB - Shayne Lawless, Stony Brook, Jr.

LB - Ed Shockley, Villanova, Sr.

S - Raven Greene, James Madison, Sr.

S - Rob Rolle, Villanova, Sr.

CB - Najee Goode, Maine, Sr.

CB - Prince Smith Jr., New Hampshire, So.

Special teams

PK - Griffin Trau, Richmond, Jr.

P - John Hinchen, Villanova, Sr.

Return - Shane Simpson, Towson, So.

Specialist - Robert Carter, James Madison, Jr.

Delaware puts an emphatic end to 9-game losing streak

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Delaware puts an emphatic end to 9-game losing streak

BOX SCORE 

NEWARK, Del. — Sophomore Ryan Daly totaled 22 points and a season-high 12 rebounds and Delaware put an emphatic end to a nine-game losing streak with a 72-57 victory over Elon on Saturday night.

Daly, in his second game back after missing five games with a sprained ankle, hit 8 of 13 from the field, including four 3-pointers, in picking up his first double-double of the season. Ryan Allen had 17 points, Anthony Mosley scored 13 and Eric Carter notched his ninth double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Blue Hens (12-17, 5-11 Colonial Athletic Association).

Delaware led 32-23 at halftime thanks to 50 percent shooting from the field (13 of 26). The Blue Hens pushed their lead to 20 on two free throws by Carter with 4:35 to play.

Tyler Seibring paced the Phoenix (14-14, 6-9) with 22 points and nine rebounds. Elon has dropped three straight.

Delaware's long losing streak continues

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Delaware's long losing streak continues

BOX SCORE

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Justin Pierce scored a career-high 33 points on 10-of-15 shooting and William & Mary broke away from Delaware in the second half for an 83-66 victory on Saturday.

Pierce's previous career high was 30 set against Elon on Feb. 1. Against the Blue Hens, he was 3 of 5 from beyond the 3-point arc and missed just 1 of 11 free throws. Nathan Knight added a double-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots and Matt Milon scored 13.

The Tribe (16-9, 9-5 Colonial Athletic Association) were strong on both ends shooting 28 of 56 from the field, distributing 20 assists, collecting 10 steals and blocking nine shots.

William & Mary led 47-39 at halftime and broke it open in the second half with an 11-2 run and led by double figures for the remainder.

Ryan Allen led Delaware (11-16, 4-10) with 25 points, Skye Johnson added 17 points and 10 rebounds and Eric Carter scored 12.