By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Danny Rocco era at the University of Delaware will get underway on Thursday night when the Blue Hens host Delaware State to open the 2017 season.

Rocco is the new head coach at Delaware, taking over the program after a fantastic run with another Colonial Athletic Association program at Richmond.

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The Blue Hens are looking to bounce back from a 4-7 season where they were just 2-6 in the CAA. Rocco says the lead up to the regular season has gone well.

“Camp is always a very challenging time of year,” he tells KYW Newsradio. “There’s an awful lot going on and a lot of adversity to overcome. But I’ve felt like this team has responded really well. We’ve worked hard and I think the most significant thing is that we have made improvement and we’ve been able to push through some adversity and some injury and develop some of our younger talent.”

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The Blue Hens on offense will be led by junior quarterback Joe Walker. He only completed 48% of his passes last year, but Rocco has liked what Walker has done since he took over as coach.

“As I got out there and started to evaluate him in the spring,” he says, “I was pleased with what he was able to show us. And then as we got into the summer, I was impressed with how he responded. We brought a transfer in, J.P. Caruso from Appalachian State, who I thought brought some competition to the position. Pat Kehoe, another younger quarterback, has gotten better and he has created some competition at the position. But when it was all said and done, I thought Joe just responded extraordinarily well, and really wasn’t fazed and went out there and performed at a high level, which has offered me confidence in him.”

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Delaware will look to once again have success running the football this season. Last year, they rolled up an average of 227 yards a game. Redshirt junior Thomas Jefferson is the leading returning rusher as he pounded out 700 yards last season. Walker also is a threat on the ground as he had 389 yards rushing last year.

Rocco breaks down the Delaware defense.

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“I think our front seven’s pretty much established,” he says. “A lot of veteran players in there with accolades, so we’re excited about that. I’m hopeful that we can play at a really high level up front, in the defensive front seven. I’ve liked the development of our secondary. We’ve got a number of guys that I think are somewhat interchangeable. I think we’ve got good depth back there and we’ll find out here real soon just how many of these guys are really ready to play at a high level.”

Delaware and Delaware State get underway on Thursday at 7:00 p.m.


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