NEWARK – Wes Hills used to run like a young colt.
He was all legs and ran with an upright style that made the 6-foot-2 Delaware freshman running back stand out on the practice field last August.
Clearly, that was going to change.
“Coach (Tony) Lucas got on me about that,” Hills said on Saturday. “I’ve got to run lower if I want to play on this team. I can’t be running high, it just gives them a bigger target.”
The sophomore version of Hills runs a lot closer to the ground. And it’s one reason why Hills is a lot closer to making a big impact for the Blue Hens this fall.
With projected starter Jalen Randolph sitting out Delaware’s second scrimmage on Saturday afternoon, Hills was impressive at times while playing with the Hens’ first-team offense.
On one play, Hills cut back against the flow to break off a 45-yard run that set up a touchdown. He later broke some tackles to get near the goal line before finally scoring on a tough, short-yardage run.
“Wes is a horse,” said senior safety Jake Giusti. “We’re definitely going to have to give him the ball. We’ve got a one-two punch with him and Jalen. Wes is a mix of speed and power and we saw that today.
“He’s a hard guy to bring down. And it’s hard to bring him down with just one person. We’ve got a lot of confidence in him and we’re excited to see him roll this season.”
A year after running for 81 yards and a TD on 10 carries, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Hills is clearly going to play a bigger role for Delaware this season. The Hens graduated both four-year starter Andrew Pierce and Julian Laing.
Randolph, who ran for 319 yards and four touchdowns on 63 carries last year, is a redshirt sophomore.
But coach Dave Brock said Hills still has a lot of work to do.
“He’s a very talented kid,” said Brock. “But, as a young player, you’re usually defined by your bad plays. He’s going to have some explosive plays – he has explosive abilities.
“(But) he’s got to learn that a four-yard run is a good play in college football. Not every play is going to be a big play. Right now he’s got too much of that. …. it’s all or nothing. We need some good ‘down-and-distance’ running plays. When it’s second-and-six, second-and-five, that’s where we’ll be our most effective.”
Not that Brock isn’t excited about Hills’ potential. He said the youngster clearly knows the playbook much better this season and has the ability to be a good receiver.
“He gives you the homerun shot,” said Brock. “He’s the boxer who can knock you out. That’s something that we haven’t had here.”
A first-team All-Stater at both running back and linebacker at Wildwood (N.J.) High, Hills ran for 2,107 yards and 35 TDs as a senior.
He knows he’s got to be a more complete player to be a good college running back, though. He also knows he’s not there yet.
“I always try to go for the big ones,” said Hills. “But that’s a sign of maturity when you’re running the ball – you’ve got to take the four yards and those 20- and 30-yard runs will come.
“I’m still getting the hang of it. I’m still used to taking the big ones and the little ones will come. I feel like I have to mature as a runner. I’m still not mature enough.”
Give and take
There were plenty of ups and downs on both sides of the ball during Saturday’s scrimmage.
Receiver Stephen Clark ran past the defense and quarterback Trent Hurley found the wide-open senior for a 41-yard scoring pass. Hurley also hit a tightly-covered Diante Cherry at the goal line on a 12-yard TD pass.
Sophomore cornerback Mark Doe later returned the favor when he picked up a fumble and returned it 60 yards for a TD.
The Hens are playing a lot of young players and Brock said, right now, he’s not planning on redshirting any of the true freshmen on defense.
“Right now, I would anticipate virtually every kid we signed on defense playing,” said Brock. “I’ll make those decisions this week. But they’re earning it. And we don’t have the depth to try to guard against it and say, ‘Well, we’ll wait until somebody gets hurt in week eight.’ Now you’ve got to gear a guy up and it’s hard to do.
“I’d rather just gear them up now, get them in and get them plays. I’m looking forward to seeing it.”
Randolph suited up for the scrimmage but Brock decided to hold him out since the Hens have only four running backs. … Donte Raymond, one of Delaware’s highly-regarded true freshman linebackers, had an interception off a tipped ball. … Giusti also had an interception. .. Cherry went untackled on a long kickoff return that was blown dead before he reached the end zone. … Backup defensive lineman Cedric Udegbe (shoulder) and defensive back Chris Buckley (leg) both suffered injuries during the scrimmage.
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 firstname.lastname@example.org.