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Friday, April 23, 2021

Early Games Will Define Hen’s Season – and Brock’s Future

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

dave-brock
UD Head Football Coach Dave Brock

It’s not often that the second and third games of a season are critical, especially since they’re against mediocre opponents who won a total of four games last season. But for coach Dave Brock and his Delaware Blue Hens, their football season – and Brock’s future in Newark — could be determined by what happens this week and next.

Brock is at the must-win part of the season already simply because he hasn’t won enough in his three years as coach, at least not when you consider the tradition and the expectations of Delaware football. He took over for the mostly-popular and mostly-successful K.C. Keeler and it didn’t help Brock’s profile with the Blue Hens faithful that he a) had no previous Delaware connections like Keeler and Tubby Raymond did before him; and b) he was hired by an old crony from Boston College even though Delaware was supposed to conduct a national search and even though Brock had never been a head coach before.

But now that old crony – former athletic director Eric Ziady — isn’t here anymore to protect Brock and the new administration already proved that it has no problem disconnecting from the past when it fired mostly-popular and mostly-unsuccessful basketball coach Monte Ross.

The fact is, we don’t know if Brock is a good coach or not, even though the available evidence suggests he’s not, or at least not a good recruiter, which is the heart and soul of any successful program. Delaware is 17-18 in Brock’s three seasons and his only winning season was his first one, and that was done mostly with Keeler’s players. Since then, Delaware is 10-13 and that, of course, isn’t acceptable around these parts.

Brock’s players play hard and they compete to the end and they seem to have great camaraderie and that is always a credit to the head coach and his staff. But they just don’t win nearly enough.

That’s why this week’s game against Lafayette is so important. Delaware dusted Delaware State last week, as expected, and that gave the Hens a nice boost of confidence, not to mention a winning record. And now they play another team they should stomp – Lafayette finished 1-10 last season. If the Hens struggle against the Leopards or, worse, lose to them, then all of the positive vibes from the Delaware State game will be gone.

Then Delaware steps up a level when it plays Wake Forest of the Atlantic Coast Conference, but even that game will be telling. Wake Forest, which beat Tulane 7-3 in its opener last week, finished 3-9 last season and was picked to finish seventh — last — in the ACC’s Atlantic Division by the league’s coaches.

So, Delaware starts the season with three bad teams and they need to win all of them before they dive into their Colonial Athletic Association schedule. The coaches in that conference feel the same way about Delaware as the ACC coaches feel about Wake Forest – they also picked the Blue Hens to finish seventh. Victories will be difficult to come by in the CAA and the Hens need all the momentum and confidence they can get before they hit that part of their schedule.

Whether it’s fair or not really doesn’t matter. If you’re the head coach of Delaware you have to win, period. So, even though we’re only into the second week of the season, the clock is already ticking for Dave Brock.

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