Dover, Del. (Aug. 2, 2017) --- Today marks the start of preseason camp for the 2017 Delaware State football team. Following check-in, the players will gather with the coaching staff for orientation today. Thursday’s schedule includes compliance sessions, physicals, pictures and position meetings.
The Hornets will hit the practice field for the first time on Friday.
Although Kenny Carter is in his third year as Delaware State’s head coach, the 2017 season is, in effect, a new beginning for the Hornets. After reshaping the roster and implementing some structural changes, Carter believes his team is prepared to turn the corner after a challenging start to his DSU tenure. The Hornets return more than 50 players from the 2016 squad, led by a group of sophomores and juniors that gained valuable experience while developing a dogged determination through the struggles of the last two seasons. In addition, Carter believes his 2017 newcomers include more “ready-to-contribute” players than in year’s past. A handful of other players shelved by injury in 2016 also factor into the sense of optimism for the new season.
The battle for the starting quarterback job is expected to be wide open. One of the contenders, Keenan Black (so.), played sparingly as a freshman last season, but did not throw a pass. Still, Black has the most experience among the group after taking the majority of snaps during the 2017 spring camp.
The other contenders include a redshirt freshman and two players fresh out of high school.
Shayne Smith (r-fr.) was No. 2 behind Black in last spring’s camp after sitting out the 2016 season.
The newcomers at quarterback bring impressive credentials to the job.
Jack McDaniel (fr.; Lorton, Va.) completed 224 of 331 passes (68%) for 2,956 yards and 36 touchdowns, while rushing for 450 yards and a four scores during his senior season at So. County HS. McDaniel threw for more than 4,000 yards during his scholastic career and holds the school’s single-season and career records for passing yards, completions and passing touchdowns.
Nasir Boykins (fr.; Phila., Pa.) led Imhotep Charter to the Pennsylvania state championship as a junior in 2015 and a title game appearance in 2016. Boykins led the team to 28-1 record his last two seasons and is the al-time Philadelphia Public League passing yardage leader.
Whichever quarterback is on the field for the Hornets will likely get plenty of experience handing the ball to what’s expected to be a sold running back corps. Leading the group is sophomore Mike Waters, a 2016 HERO Sports FCS Freshman All-America and All-MEAC third team selection. Waters, the MEAC’s third leading rusher at 74.5 ypg, made a splash last season, rushing for a DSU freshman record 820 yards, highlighted by a 224-yard performance in the season finale against Howard, also a team rookie record. He also ran for 154 yards against Florida A&M and led the Hornets with five rushing touchdowns in his collegiate debut season.
Joining Waters in the backfield is Brycen Alleyne (jr.), who ranked fifth in the MEAC in rushing at 58.4 yards per game as a sophomore in 2016 (584 yards total). Alleyne rushed for a career-high 174 yards against Florida A&M and ranked third on the Hornets with 28 receptions last season. Recognized as one of the MEAC’s top kick returners, he also ranked third in the league at 117.9 all-purpose yards per game in 2016.
The Hornet backfield will also be bolstered by the addition of Nyfease West (r-fr.), who sat out the 2016 season after suffering a knee injury during preseason workouts. West was No. 2 in North Penn (Pa.) High School history with 4,098 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns from 2012-15.
Sika Bendolph (jr.), along with sophomores Bryant Dallas and Giovanni Downie will also challenge for playing time in the back field this season.
The Hornets enter the 2017 season with hope for continued progress along the offensive line. Last season, the line paved the way for two of the MEAC's top five rushers (Mike Waters; Brycen Alleyne) and helped DSU finish sixth in the MEAC in rushing yards per game (128.7 ypg), the team's best league finish in eight years. Expected to lead the way up front are sophomores Joshua Fala (T; 6-7, 355) and Cade Pedro (C; 6-5, 305), along with junior guard Charles “Trey” Wallace (6-3, 300).
The top newcomer up front is Canadian and former Connecticut prep standout Matthew Derks (fr.; 6-4, 325) at guard. Kaiden Crawford (r-fr.; 6-4, 290) is a likely starter at tackle after missing the 2016 season due to injury.
The pass catchers feature a solid mix of speedy and possession wide receivers, along with capable tight ends.
Mason Rutherford (sr.) is the top returning wide receiver. Rutherford , a transfer from San Bernardino JC (Cal.), was No. 1 on the Hornets with 42 catches and 564 receiving yards in his first season with the team in 2016. He ranked fourth in the MEAC in receiving yards (51.3 pg) and fifth in receptions (3.8 pg) last season.
Fatu Sua-Godinet (so.) emerged as one of the Hornets’ wide receiver threats as a true freshman in 2016. He ranked fourth on the team in receiving yards (287) and fourth in catches (19) last season. In addition, he was second on the Hornets with two touchdown receptions
Newcomers at wide receiver include Angelo Gonzalez (fr; Homestead, Fla.) and Delaware standout Michael Credle (fr.; Glasgow, Del.)
Isaiah Williams (so.) returns at tight end. Last season, he had 13 receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Tyreek Booker (fr.; Newark, Del.) and Myles Beverly (fr.; Ypsilanti, Mich.) will also battle for playing time at tight end this season.
The Hornet defense also appears headed for a turnaround after a combination of injuries and inexperience beset the unit in 2016.
The most significant improvement is likely to be along the defensive line. Jacob Jones (jr.; 6-4, 300) is entering his first full season at nose guard after shifting from the offensive line early last season. He’s top among defensive returning linemen with 22 tackles in 2016. Lineman Ulises De Los Santos (so.; 6-4, 300) gained valuable experience after joining the team midway through his freshman season in 2016. Damon Atwater-Stephens (so.; 6-3, 280) also returns up front after collecting 15 tackles (eight solo) as a true freshman last season.
The defensive front also welcomes the addition of Caleb Hebron (so.; 6-4, 265), a transfer from Towson University. A former tight end, Hebron impressed the coaching staff with his skill and aggressiveness during the Hornets’ spring 2017 camp. Adbul Ajelero (r-so.; 6-0, 255) ) returns after appearing in just a few plays before suffering a season-ending injury in the 2016 opener. Eljon Williams (so.; 6-6, 275), Robert Jernigan (jr.; 6-3, 265) and Christian Johnson (jr.; 6-2, 245) are experienced linemen, while newcomers Jonathan Coste (fr.; 6-2, 280) and Isaiah Williams (fr.; 6-2, 280) will also battle for playing time.
A veteran linebacker corps is expected to highlight the Hornet defense this season. Inside backers Malik Harris (sr.) and Brian Cavicante (so.) are coming off solid seasons. Harris was tops on the team and among the MEAC leaders with 82 tackles (48 solo) in 2016. He was also credited with 11 backfield stops, including a team-high three-sacks.
Cavicante was second on the Hornets with 70 tackles, 43 unassisted, as a true freshman in 2016. He was also third on the team with seven tackles-for-loss a year ago.
Seniors outside backers Kameron Rogers and Garfield Heslop also bring veteran leadership to the Hornet defense. Rogers had 22 tackles, 2.5 behind the line-of-scrimmage and a fumble recovery, while Heslop was credited with 16 tackles (2.5 TFL), a forced fumble and fumble recovery last season.
Kevin Perry (sr.) and Donte Newell (so.) are among the other experienced line backers, why Alexander Lozano (fr.; Jersey City, N.J.) Devin Adams (fr.; Miramr, Fla.) are the top newcomers.
The secondary is young and deep.
Safties Brock Nichols and Xavier Wilcher lead the group. Nichols, a sophomore, was fourth on the team with 53 tackles (36 solo) in 2016. Wilcher was fifth on the squad with 48 tackles (27 unassisted). He also had one of the team’s two interceptions last season.
The top corner is Keyjuan Selby (jr.), two-year letterwinner. Last season he was among the MEAC leaders in passes defended, while contributing 40 tackles (30 solo). He had 21 tackles (16 unassisted) and a sack as a freshman in 2015.
Jahad Niebauer (so.) showed his athleticism and hitting ability as a freshman in 2016. He had 41, including 31 solo stops and three pass break-ups in his rookie season.
Wisdom Nzidee (jr.) is in his third season as the Hornets’ placekicker. He was 4-for-7 on field goal attempts and 16-of-18 on extra point tries as a junior in 2016. Fidel Romo Martinez (so.) gives the Hornets a solid punter. Last season, he was fifth in the MEAC with a 40.0 yard average, highlighted by 10 kicks of 50-or-more yards and 16 placed inside the opponents’ 20-yarsd line.
Brycen Alleyne (jr) has led the Hornets in kickoffs in each of his two seasons.
Jose Romo-Martinez, the brother of Fidel, joins the team this season. He is expected to provide back-up duty to at punter and placekicker.
Visits to two Football Bowl Subdivision powers and the reigning Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion, along with four home games at Alumni Stadium highlight the 2017 Delaware State University football schedule.
The Hornets will draw national attention during contests at West Virginia on Sep. 16 and Florida State on Nov. 18. West Virginia was 10-3 overall and 7-2 in the Big 12 in 2016. The Mountaineers were ranked 17th in the final FBS coach’s poll and 18th in the media poll this past season. Delaware State will close out the regular 2017 season against the Florida State Seminoles. FSU was No. 8 in the final national polls after finishing with a 10-3 overall record and 5-3 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2016.
The Hornets’ 11-game 2017 slate begins on Thursday August 31 at the University of Delaware in the debut of new Blue Hens head coach Danny Rocco. It will be the eighth meeting between the state’s two Division I football programs. Each of the previous games in the series has been played at UD’s Tubby Raymond Field. DSU is seeking its first win in the series.
Delaware State’s 2017 home schedule begins on Sep. 23 against Norfolk State in the first meeting between the teams since 2014.