Optimism surrounds UD football as new season approaches
The University of Delaware football team is picked to finish in second place in the Colonial Athletic Association conference this season, while also garnering the most players on the league's preseason all-conference team.
Quarterback Nolan Henderson leads eight UD players on the all-conference team as the team looks to build on its first trip to NCAA FCS semifinals since 2010. The Hens placed four players on offense and four on defense.
UD returns plenty of starters from last season’s national semifinal team, which gives head ciach Danny Rocco plenty of veteran leadership to lean on.
"Our roster is pretty much back intact. Got a lot of returners coming back, almost all of our seniors are coming back," said Rocco. "So I think it's a really good sign of the culture of our program right now. We've had good leadership here for the last couple of seasons, that's kind of led into the summer. So I think we're in a really good spot."
James Madison is the preseason pick to win the conference, receiving 15 first-place votes in the poll of league head coaches and media relations directors.
Delaware finished second with 7 first-place votes.
Both teams went 7-1 and finished in the top-5 nationally in the COVID shortened season during the spring.
There are some concerns as preseason camp begins. One is the short turnaround from the unusual spring season. Rocco says he’s spoken to other coaches around the country and communicated with UD trainers, doctors, and strength and conditioning staff on how best to move forward after the shorter offseason.
And COVID still looms over the upcoming season with UD requiring students returning to campus to be vaccinated unless they get a medical or religious waiver. Rocco is confident enough players will be vaccinated to allow the Hens to operate close to normal.
"If you meet 85%, then you can do certain things in a more normal fashion, and then within that those that are fully vaccinated can pretty much operate as normal," Rocco said. "Those that are not may have to wear masks and be available for testing here in the fall, but I do think that we're going threshold 85%"
Meeting that threshold will allow the team to assemble for meetings easier, eat together, and travel more freely.
UD’s first game is Thursday, September 2 at Maine.