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Blue Hen Defensive Linemen Face Test
No. 24 Furman can put up strong front.
NEWARK – The University of Delaware’s defensive line has found strength in numbers this football season, as the ability to regularly rotate at least eight players has increased the unit’s effectiveness, line coach Phil Petitte said.
The sixth-ranked Blue Hens (1-1) expect to need every advantage they can muster when they encounter No. 24 Furman at 2 p.m. Saturday in Greenville, S.C.
The Paladins (2-1) are particularly powerful up front, where senior offensive tackles Joel Bell and Thomas Slaughter were both preseason first-team All-Southern Conference picks. So was tight end Larry Hedden.
Bell, who is 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds, was also a preseason first-team Sports Network All-American.
“They’re pretty good,” Delaware defensive end Ronald Talley said. “They’ve got good players all the way across. They’re tough.
“We welcome the challenge. It’s going to be a tough job, but we’ve been practicing hard and watching a lot of film, so we should be fine.”
Talley, the highly touted senior transfer from Notre Dame, and opposite end Matt Marcorelle, also a preseason All-American, will have to deal with Bell and Slaughter. Talley and Marcorelle, who’ve battled injuries during their careers, will be spelled by John Higginson and perhaps Michael Atunrase or Rick Jarnagin.
“Any time you get to go up against guys like that, who have all the accolades, it’s always good, it’s always a challenge,” Marcorelle said.
But Delaware’s tackles will also have their hands full.
Furman guards Tyler Haynes and Heath Cockburn are returning starters.
Senior center David Menocal is a first-year starter but probably the group’s best athlete, Petitte said.
In its interior, Delaware has rotated Julian James, Demitrius Hester, Siddiq Haynes and recent Syracuse transfer Brandon Gilbeaux, with Dover High graduate Carl Batson and Tatnall product Scott Von Duyke also available.
The Blue Hens were happy with how they stood up to one of the ACC’s top offensive lines in a 14-7 season-opening loss to Maryland Aug. 30.
But they felt they gave West Chester quarterbacks too much room to roam, and it led to three touchdown passes in Saturday’s 48-20 win over the Division II Golden Rams.
“As a defensive line, we definitely have to get to the quarterback, we have to make him flustered, we have to make him throw errant passes and things like that,” James said.
Sacks aren’t so much the goal as is keeping the quarterback from escaping and maybe forcing an under-pressure throw, Petitte said.
“We lost contain a couple times in the first couple games and it really hurt us,” Petitte said. “That’s what we’ve been concentrating on this week.”
Furman quarterback Jordan Sorrells has completed 64 percent of his passes (55 of 86) for 642 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s the son of Furman offensive coordinator Tim Sorrells, who was All-Southern Conference as Furman quarterback in 1980 and ‘81.
“Contain is huge,” Marcorelle said. “You’ve got to keep contain. If the quarterback gets out of the pocket, he can burn you with big plays or, if he’s a running quarterback, with his legs. Defensive backs just can’t cover receivers for any more than three or four seconds [before coverage begins to breakdown], and it’s a tough enough job as it is.
“This year, we’ve been seeing a lot of [maximum protection], and quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball quicker with three-step drops because teams realize we have some good players on the defensive line. We probably won’t have that high of a sack total this year, but we also won’t be getting beat deep at all either.”
Delaware’s depth has been invaluable, especially late in games, James said.
“It’s really underrated,” James said of defensive line depth. “You get tired running after that quarterback all game long and you need to get some fresh bodies in there.”
Outside linebacker Walter Blair injured his ankle in practice Wednesday and may not be able to play Saturday. Brian Void and Andrew Harrison are potential replacements. … Aaron Love is expected to return to wide receiver after only returning punts in the West Chester game. … Jerry Butler, who rushed for 92 yards on 12 carries with a 55-yard scoring scamper against West Chester, could likely see additional duty at Furman backing up Johnathon Smith with Phillip Thaxton nursing injuries.
Blue Hen defensive linemen face test
By Kevin Tresolini, The Delaware News Journal
Photo Credit: William Bretzger/The Delaware News Journal