The Dave Brock era is thankfully over for the Delaware football program.
Brock was fired midway through the 2016 season after stumbling through a 2-4 start and losing his first three conference games.
The 50-year-old never had any real success with the Blue Hens, failing to get over .500 in Colonial Athletic Association play over his four seasons in charge. He never finished a campaign better than 7-5. And for a program like Delaware, that meant it was time to go.
But the Blue Hens struck gold in the offseason by hiring a proven winner in Danny Rocco, who turned a Richmond program that was floundering five years ago into a perennial postseason contender. He publicly clashed with the administration through the end of 2016, though. The Blue Hens swooped in and stole him away from a conference rival, and now it’s up to him to rebuild Delaware football.
2016 Delaware Football Season In Review
For a school that has had legitimate NFL quarterbacks such as Joe Flacco and Rich Gannon, the passing game last season was terrible. Joe Walker was the starter and managed to throw for just 86.7 yards per game. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns. Additionally, he put the ball on the ground eight times.
Despite the inability of the offense to move the ball through the air, the rushing attack was productive. The Blue Hens averaged 227.2 yards per game on the ground with three running backs getting the bulk of the work. Thomas Jefferson and Jalen Randolph averaged over five yards per carry, but the playmaker was Wes Hills, who tore up Delaware State and Maine with over 200 yards against each and averaged over eight yards per carry.
The Blue Hens were pretty good on the defensive end all things considered. Delaware finished 35th in the country in total defense despite playing in one of the toughest conferences in FCS. The unit forced more than two turnovers per game on average and had a great leader in Charles Bell, who led the team in tackles and had 11.5 tackles for loss to earn All-CAA honors for the second straight season.
2017 Delaware Football Season Preview
The first order of business for Rocco is to get more out of Walker. The new head coach helped turn Kyle Lauletta into a 3,000-yard passer at Richmond and has shown that he can get the most out of his signal callers. Even getting Walker to the 2,000-yard mark would be a huge step in the right direction after last year and make the Blue Hens instantly more competitive.
Delaware should have a very good ground game yet again in 2017. Jefferson and Hills return for another season, as does all-CAA offensive lineman Brody Kern. It’s likely that Rocco will want to lean on the run and rely on it to help set up the pass.
Bell has a very good chance to be a three-time all-conference selection at the end of this year. He is one of nine starters back for the Blue Hens defense, and it should be one of the best units in the conference. The main concern is how it responds to Rocco switching from a base 4-3 to a 3-4 alignment.
2017 Delaware Football Schedule
August 31: Delaware vs. Delaware State
September 9: Delaware at Virginia Tech
September 16: Delaware vs. Cornell
September 30: Delaware vs. James Madison
October 7: Delaware at Stony Brook
October 14: Delaware vs. William & Mary
October 21: Delaware vs. Richmond
October 28: Delaware at Towson
November 4: Delaware at Maine
November 11: Delaware vs. Albany
November 18: Delaware at Villanova
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
Delaware is probably a lock to go 2-1 in non-conference play. The Blue Hens should hammer Delaware State and Cornell, but they will get thumped by Virginia Tech.
In league play, the Blue Hens don’t get either of the conference lightweights in Elon or Rhode Island, so that hurts their chances of getting back over .500 in CAA play.
The game to circle will come on October 21, when Richmond comes to town. Rocco will want to win against his former school more than any other and will pull out all the stops to make it happen. This is a great spot to back the Blue Hens in FCS Pick ‘Em Contests.