NEWARK — Joe Walker would like to think he’s ready to be Delaware’s new starting quarterback.
But, ready or not, the redshirt freshman also realizes a QB’s best friend is a really good running game.
So while the Blue Hens’ search for a starting quarterback took center stage in spring practice, it’s also pretty clear that Delaware is going to have to depend on its dependable running game for a while.
Wes Hills reminded people how explosive he can be as he scampered for 122 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries as the Blue blanked the White, 24-0, in the Hens’ annual intrasquad scrimmage at sun-splashed Delaware Stadium on Saturday,
Fellow junior running back Jalen Randolph wasn’t bad, either, as he ran for 71 yards and a TD on 10 carries.
Clearly, Delaware’s running game is going to be the strength of Delaware’s offense, at least early on next season.
“We have all the pieces,” said Hills. “We have a good line — we didn’t lose a lot. Everyone knows the system. Everyone’s experienced. And the young guys, they can get in and take our spots if we’re down. We’re realy confident in going out there and doing it.”
“The thing that I feel every good about is,” said third-year coach Dave Brock, “any time you have a young quarterback, if you have the ability to run the ball and be efficient, than that guy’s got an easier time of it, more often than not. That’s certainly the plan going in,”
“I think once we get together with who’s going to be who and the coaches get a little more comfortable with who’s there, then we’ll probably see more passes come along,” said Walker. “But, as of right now, I feel as though like we’re a run-the-ball-first team offense.”
Hills scored on a 33-yard run while Randolph scored on a 12-yarder when he beat the defense to the front corner of the end zone.
As for the quarterbacks, it’s officially now a two-man race after Indian River High grad Jamie Jarmon was switched to safety last week. The former minor league baseball player made a couple tackles from that spot on Saturday.
That leaves Walker battling junior Blake Rankin for the starting job at QB. And while Brock isn’t near ready to name the starter, Walker seems to have come out of spring as the leading contender for the job.
On Saturday, the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder from Philadelphia completed 6-of-9 passes for 92 yards with no interceptions. Rankin, the former Rutgers transfer, was 4-for-8 for 25 yards with an interception on a tipped pass.
Both quarterbacks did have some passes dropped.
Brock said he would have been surprised if the Hens finished spring ball with a clear-cut starter.
“I would tell you, if somebody jumped out like that in the situation that we were in, it probably would have been somebody’s inability to do it,” he said. “These next nine weeks, you’re going to see a hard-to-fathom jump in what they can do, how they can do it, the throws they’ll make, the timing, all those things.
“You’re going to see an immense difference in those kids when they come back for training camp. Obviously that’s one thing we’re counting on.”
Clearly, though, Brock understands the importance of getting a solid QB behind center. Trent Hurley, a senior last year, has been Delaware’s starter for the past three seasons.
“Realistically, it’s going to begin and end with the quarterback position,” said Brock. “I think we’re going to have enough pieces everywhere else to feel really, really good about our opportunity and what we’ll be able to do.
“Now we just have to be smart enough to figure out, ‘OK, these are the things that these guys can do (at QB) really, really well,” he added. “Here are the things where maybe we’re marginal — we can get good enough to do them frequently. Then there may be a couple things where we say, ‘Hey look, the reward’s not worth the risk.’”
“All I try to do is just take control of the team — of the huddle — while I’m in there,” said Walker. “My biggest challenge when I got here was basically learning the defense. As I started to do that, everything got better for me. It just looks like a clear path for me (learning the position) right now.”
Delaware did throw one passing touchdown on Saturday. But the TD came on a 30-yard flea-flicker from sophomore receiver Diante Cherry to a wide-open Randolph.
Defensively, the only turnover came on an interception by linebacker Eric Patton, the former St. Elizabeth High standout.
But Brock said one of the biggest bright spots of the spring was the return of fifth-year senior David Tinsley. The defensive tackle missed all last season after tearing his bicep in the season opener at Pittsburgh.
It was the third time that Tinsley had surgery for a torn bicep.
Tinsley, though. was back playing football this spring. He’ll graduate later this month and has already been accepted into the university’s MBA program.
“He’s had a really turbulent journey here through no fault of his own,” said Brock. “He’s got a great spirit, a great energy. It’s exciting to see it. You love when a guy who really loves to play and loves to compete and has great leadership ability ... you love when he does well.
“He looks like his face is broken — his smile is ear to ear. He’s really, really excited to be back and we’re thrilled to have him back.”
Tinsley had four tackles in Saturday’s game, including one for a loss.
“I love the guys in the locker room, I love being around here,” said Tinsley. “I came here to get to the playoffs and hopefully get a CAA championship. I wanted to get back in the locker room with those guys.
“Just getting out there and playing every snap like it’s your last is what’s driving me every day.”
Cherry, defensive tackle Blaine Woodson and kicker Frank Raggo were named the spring MVPs on offense, defense and special teams, respectively. ... Sophomore linebacker Tommy Wilmoth had a game-high seven tackles. ... Raggo hit a 34-yard field goal, his only attempt of the scrimmage. ... Senior receiver Jerel Harrison had four catches for 65 yards.
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.