Questions. Every college football team has them.
The answers often appear in the spring.
The University of Delaware’s 2023 season begins to bloom when spring practice begins Saturday and concludes with the annual blue-white intrasquad game on Friday night, April 21, at Delaware Stadium.
After going 8-5 and making the FCS playoffs in 2022, Delaware must begin replacing a horde of veteran players who were also instrumental in the 2021 NCAA semifinals roster.
Here are five key questions to ask at the beginning of this process:
Who Will Be Quarterback?
That will be the most asked question until Delaware kicks off the 2023 schedule at CAA rival Stony Brook on Aug. 31. Nolan Henderson, Delaware’s fourth game starter of the 2019 season, became one of the all-time winning quarterbacks and will be hard to replace.
Ryan O’Connor, who stepped in when Henderson was injured in last year’s NCAA playoff loss at South Dakota State, brings proven experience and familiarity with coach Ryan Carty’s fast-paced offense.
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The only other scholarship quarterback in Spring Drills is Zach Marker, who is a trader from Iowa Central Community College. He has the experience of 20 junior collegiate games in which he threw for 1,597 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushed for 665 yards with six TDs, which are promising stats for someone at the top of Carty’s system.
Delaware also has Noah Sanders, a promising freshman who has sparked an interest in Virginia high school. He’s a multi-threat quarterback who threw for 1,361 yards and ran for 420 yards in high school.
“We’re looking forward to spring with all these guys,” Carty said. ” . . . Who will be the guy that will give us the best chance of beating Stony Brook? That will be the burden for us as coaches over the next few weeks, months and of course into the fall.”
How is Delaware rebuilding that defense?
The 11 defensive starters for Delaware in last year’s Navy season opener had 186 previous starts, a big reason the Blue Hens upset the Mids 14-7 and eventually propelled them into the NCAA playoffs.
Only one of those 11 starters, cornerback Amonte Strothers, is back from a defense that was among FCS’ best nationally.
Such is the importance of the task facing defensive coordinator Manny Rojas and his coaches and players.
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“There’s a lot of production left,” Carty said. “And a lot of leadership that’s left.
“Those are the things we need to develop further. But I also think there is some exciting stuff, with guys who have been waiting in the wings and guys who are new to the program now and will be new in the fall.”
Certainly, Delaware has other players who have made key defensive contributions and are returning, like linemen Jack Hall and Chase McGowan and safetymen Ty Davis and Nic Ware. Others have potential and are now getting the opportunity to show it.
But this will be a monumental endeavor that will make it one of the most important spring sessions for a Delaware defense in years.
Which offensive position has questions?
While the offensive line continues to be under scrutiny as an area that needs to get better and deeper, wide receiver is the positional area on offense to keep an eye on this spring.
Delaware loses one of the most reliable receivers in its history in Thyrick Pitts. Brett Buckman, who finished third on the team with 39 receptions last season, recently announced he is joining the portal as a graduate transfer. VMI transfer Michael Jackson Jr. was a reliable target in his final season.
So who will join Jourdan Townsend and Chandler Harvin as the Blue Hens’ best pass catchers?
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Cincinnati transfer JoJo Bermudez, just a freshman, is a promising prospect that Delaware has had at the position for years, given the recruiting interest he justified in high school.
Transfer Kym Wimberly from Harvard, where he was a second-team All-Ivy last year, also brings valuable experience and skills.
There are also numerous promising returnees like James Collins, Jalyn Witcher and Makhi Jackson aiming to earn more chances.
Which defensive position has the most questions?
Delaware has been very good and very deep at linebacker in recent years. Now the chickens only have question marks.
However, there is potential.
Dillon Trainer has been waiting for his chance and now he’s getting it, and converted H-back Mateo Vandamia is needed a lot more this year than last year. Can newcomer Gavin Moul step in?
Delaware’s most intriguing transfer signing might be Jackson Taylor, the Division II All-American who was an absolute terror in West Chester. He had 262 tackles with 39 yards lost in 34 games with six fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and three interceptions.
How those skills stack up against the better competition he’ll face in FCS may have a lot to do with the Blue Hens’ success in 2023.
Which players are worth seeing?
In addition to the already mentioned ex-starter Patrick Shupp, after injury worries last year, will he become a more permanent part of the offensive line, who will have to replace the versatile and reliable Stevon Brown?
Can Shoes Brinkley, perhaps the most talented player in the 2021 draft class, step in at cornerback after gaining some real freshman experience over the past year?
Where do Keeno Arrington and the other mid-year transfers fit into the Reconstruction defense? Can newcomer Dominick Brogna be among those who play up front in defence?
Three high school graduates who graduated early and are already enrolled will command attention – running back Saeed St. Fleur, wideout Jacarree Kelly and safety Kelvin Seay.
“There are unknowns, that’s for sure,” Carty said. “But that’s college football. Can you replace the talent and somehow reinvigorate that culture, that experience, that production?
“It gives us a chance to reaffirm the things that we fundamentally believe in from the ground up, and I think that’s pretty awesome.”
Have an idea for a compelling local sports story, or is there an issue that deserves public scrutiny? Contact Kevin Tresolini at [email protected] and follow @kevintresolini on Twitter. Support local journalism by subscribing to delawareonline.com