NEWARK — Marcus Yarns waited for just the right moment.
Pulling in the short pass, the young running back let his blockers get set up and then burst downfield.
If it was a real football game, it might have been a big play.
But even though it was just a Saturday morning scrimmage in August, with no live tackling, Yarns will take it.
In that moment, he was his old self again.
“I’m getting it back,” Yarns said with a smile. “I’m getting it back.
“I’m coming off an injury so I was moving at a slower pace. But, today, everyone — the coaches, the players — gave me good motivation and told me it’s all mental. If you feel like you can do it, then do it. And that’s what I did. It felt great.”
There was a time when fans at Salisbury, Maryland’s Parkside High expected Yarns to make electrifying plays every time he touched the ball.
But that was before he injured his right knee during his senior season in high school and then broke a bone in his left leg last year as a freshman at Delaware.
Blue Hen coach Danny Rocco would like Yarns to be part of a good group of young running backs behind Delaware’s two veteran backs, Dejoun Lee and Khoury Spruill. That’s why Rocco is encouraged every time he sees Yarns flash his old form.
At Parkside, Yarns ran for over 2,500 yards and 21 touchdowns.
“Today, that’s the first time I’ve seen him in a while show that burst and show that kind of explosion,” said Rocco. “He is still recovering in terms of having the confidence to maybe cut it loose. We’ve just got to get him loose one time to get his confidence up there.
“He’s had a tough go of it. I really respect what he has been able to do. ... He’s just been able to steadily work through it.”
Thee 5-foot-11, 190-pound Yarns said the knee injury he suffered in high school changed his perspective. He was a three-sport standout at Parkside, also playing basketball and lacrosse.
“It allowed me to deal with adversity at a younger age,” said Yarns. “It allowed me to know that the game could be taken from me at any moment. And it allowed me to just not take anything for granted.”
Yarns said the injury may have made some college recruiters back off a little bit.
“I feel like it did,” he said. “But that’s a part of the game.”
With a number of running backs looking to carry the ball for the Hens right now, Yarns knows he might have to wait for his chance. Ironically, though, he says probably his best attribute as a runner is patience.
That’s something he’s learned a lot about lately.
“I’m a bit more patient than other guys,” said Yarns. “I can get a better feel for a hole and then explode out. Then I can make someone miss.”
Another of Delaware’s up-and-coming running backs, Quincy Watson had a difficult spring of his own. He missed all but the last game of the spring season after testing positive for COVID.
Despite this being his third year in the program, Watson is still considered only a freshman this fall. He played in the minimum four games in 2019.
Watson said he has a lot of respect for the other players in the running backs room.
“Whenever my name gets called, I’ll always be ready,” he said. “I have to do what I have to do.”
The Hens have also picked up another running back in Joseph Bruno, a freshman transfer from Penn State. The 6-foot, 202-pounder played in eight games for the Nittany Lions, mostly on special teams.
Known for his speed, Bruno did run for 42 yards on four carries against Illinois last fall.
“Honestly, I’m just here to help out however I can,” said Bruno, who has been clocked at 10.7 seconds in the 100-yard dash. “All the guys in the group are great. It’s great learning from guys like Dejoun. It’s a great opportunity to be around those kind of guys.”
Former Sussex Central High All-Stater Alton Dennis has joined the Hens as a walk-on freshman linebacker. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound two-way player was the state Defensive Player of the Year last fall. ... Linebacker Drew Nickles has been limited in camp by a shoulder injury. Rocco does expect him to be able to play this fall, though. ... Senior Trey Austin, a Middletown High grad who spent his first collegiate season at UNLV, saw some time at cornerback on Saturday. “The best he has looked have been these last couple days,” said Rocco. ... Delaware has picked up a couple more verbal commitments for its next recruiting class, including Justin Joly, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound receiver, tight end, linebacker from New York, and Jalen Stewart, a linebacker from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania ... Shoes Brinkley, a highly regarded defensive back/athlete from California, verbally committed to Delaware on Saturday. A 5-foot-9, 183-pounder who played for Mater Dei, Brinkley had offers from a number of FCS programs as well as some at the FBS level.