NEWARK – It wasn’t what Dave Brock saw in Joe Walker that first made him notice the young quarterback.
It’s what he heard.
Brock, the Delaware football coach, was standing at a high school camp when he heard one of Walker’s passes go by.
“It’ll sound ridiculous but … all of a sudden I hear a ball whistling,” said Brock. “He was a skinny, skinny guy. But he really could unload the ball.”
Brock admitted that, when he left the camp, he thought Walker might be too talented to end up with the Blue Hens. So Brock was pretty excited when he was able to announce the Philadelphia QB as one of 22 recruits that signed with Delaware on Wednesday.
That class was one of the largest the Hens have ever collected and was the first completely brought in by Brock and his staff. The class that Delaware signed last February was all originally recruited by former coach K.C. Keeler and his staff.
As Brock pointed out, the 22 incoming players will make up a third of the Hens’ scholarship players in preseason camp.
All of the recruits come from the Mid-Atlantic region – Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. There were also two instate signees, Cape Henlopen tight end Andrew Grau and Hodgson defensive end Bilal Nichols.
But Brock seemed especially excited about Walker, a 6-foot-3, 185-pounder from Philadelphia’s Martin Luther King High. Walker, who played his first three seasons at Mastbaum High, set the Public League record with a combined 71 touchdowns passing and rushing.
For his career, Walker completed 229-of-559 passes for 3,795 yards with 48 touchdowns. Brock said the youngster had over a dozen scholarship offers, including five or six from the I-A Mid-America Conference.
“I wouldn’t have given us a terrific chance walking out of that camp,” said Brock. “I would have thought that he likely would have been recruited up. He had 15 or 16 offers but he loved Delaware. He loved what we were all about.
“He is the person that we targeted early on,” Brock added. “He is the person that we felt was the guy that we wanted to come play football at the University of Delaware at quarterback. He is an across-the-board dynamic player. We are thrilled that he chose to come to Delaware. We are very, very excited about Joe.”
Brock said as late as last weekend Walker turned down an offer from a MAC school. Along with his passing accuracy, Walker also ran for 800 yards and 14 TDs.
“I would tell you he is a dynamic player with the ball in his hand, period,” said Brock. “Whether he throws it or runs it, he is a playmaker.”
Overall, the class included four offensive linemen, three wide receivers, three tight ends, two running backs, three linebackers, one QB, two defensive linemen, two defensive backs, one athlete and a kicker.
Brock was also excited about the three linebackers, saying “They’re going their mark on Delaware football.”
Among the other skill players, running back Kareem Williams is the brother of former Boston College star Andre Williams, who was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy last fall. The younger Williams, from Parkland (Pa.) High, ran for 1,932 yards and 23 TDs as a senior.
Then there’s defensive end John Nassib, a 6-foot-6, 260-pounder from Malvern Prep (Pa.) whose brother, Ryan, was a standout QB at Syracuse and a fourth-round draft pick of the New York Giants.
The Hens also signed Quai Jefferson from St. Joseph (N.J.) High, a receiver known as much for his off-the-field story as on the field. For several years, Jefferson has been the primary caregiver for his mother, Vaida, who has MS.
The Jeffersons’ story has been told on national TV and some major newspapers.
But the one kicker, Frank Raggo from Randolph (N.J.) High, might make the most immediate impact. With the graduation of Sean Baner, Delaware has an immediate need for a place kicker.
Brock said Raggo will get a chance to compete for the starting job. In high school, he hit 13 career field goals, including four of over 40 yards, made 101-of-112 PATs and had 52 touchbacks on kickoffs.
As for Cape’s Grau, Delaware still gave him a scholarship despite the fact that he missed most of his senior season with a knee injury. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound two-way lineman will start out as a tight end.
“He’s somebody we felt like would be a great player to develop,” said Brock. “We’re thrilled we have him. Now we’re just looking to make sure he gets healthy, take care of his rehab and do the things he needs to do.”
While Brock reiterated his philosophy on not depending on transfers in the future, he did say he’s looking at taking two or three transfers this year to fill some specific needs.
Overall, though, Brock seemed like a pretty happy guy after putting his first recruiting class together.
“I’m convinced that, not only did we bring the right players to Delaware, we brought the right people,” he said.
Here’s a look at Delaware’s 2014 football recruiting class, listed in alphabetical order:
RYLEY ANGELINE (6-3, 215, Athlete, Chester Springs, Pa., Downingtown East HS): Three-year starting tailback and a prolific ground-gainer. … named Outstanding Back in the Ches-Mont League and selected to All-Southeastern Pennsylvania team by the Philadelphia Inquirer as a senior... for his career, rushed 365 times for 2,936 and 31 touchdowns and caught 9 passes for 106 yards.
CHARLES BELL (6-1, 225, Linebacker, Conestoga, Pa., Penn Manor HS): He was named Lancaster-Lebanon League Player of the Year as well as the Linebacker of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, and Back of the Year... for his entire high school career, tallied 361 total tackles, 15.5 sacks, and four interceptions to go with 2,103 yards and 32 touchdowns rushing.
MALCOLM BROWN (6-1, 190, Defensive Back • Gaithersburg, Md., Quince Orchard HS): Recorded 27 tackles, one interception, and 10 pass breakups while catching 29 passes for 412 yards and six touchdowns as a senior...averaged 33.4 yards on seven punt returns and ran back two for touchdowns. … brother, Manuel, plays football at Delaware rival Towson.
TRE BROWN (6-2, 200, Wide Receiver, Harrisburg, Pa./Milton Hershey HS): Piled up 1,100 all-purpose yards and scored 23 touchdown as a senior...had 1,200 all-purpose yards with 13 touchdowns and collected 50 tackles, three interceptions, and forced two fumbles as a linebacker in 2012...had 75 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles as a sophomore.
MARIO FARINELLA (6-2, 295, Offensive Line, Bloomfield, N.J. , Bergen Catholic HS): Earned second team all-conference honors as a senior when he also earned a spot on the Group 4 non-public all-region team...two-way lineman who played primarily at center on offense.
TROY GALLEN (6-0, 175, Wide Receiver, Glen Mills, Pa. Malvern Prep): Named the 2013 Inter-Ac Player of the Year...winner of Mini-Maxwell Award...first team All-City, All-Main Line, and All-Southeastern Pennsylvania in 2013... as a senior, rushed for 1,536 yards and hauled in 454 passing yards for 26 total touchdowns...picked up the No. 4 single game rushing performance in city history with 372 yards vs. Episcopal and also had a 333 yards and 6 TDs vs. Springside Chestnut Hill.
ANDREW GRAU (6-5, 225, Tight End, Rehoboth Beach, Cape Henlopen HS): Earned All-Henlopen Conference honors as a junior at tight end...led football team to 8-2 record in 2011 as a defensive end.
MAURICE HARLEY (6-0, 201, Defensive Back, Upper Marlboro, Md., St. John’s College HS): Earned team’s Mush Dubofsky Award as the player who made the largest contribution to the team during his career...earned team’s Hardest Hitter Award...recorded 96 tackles to go with 17 tackles for loss, seven sacks, three forced fumbles, and one interception as a senior in 2013.
ANTHONY JACKSON (6-1, 210, Linebacker, Riverdale, Md., Suitland HS): Earned first team All-State honors in 2013 as a linebacker... selected to play in the prestigious Big 33 Game… collected 260 tackles over two seasons, including 171 in 2013...added six interceptions, seven sacks, and four forced fumbles for his career.
QUAI JEFFERSON (6-0, 195, Wide Receiver, Woodland Park, N.J., St. Joseph Regional HS): Honorable mention New Jersey All-State selection in 2013... caught 23 passes for 360 yards (15.6 avg.) and five touchdowns as a senior...caught 38 passes for 566 yards (14.9 avg.) and eight touchdowns and scored 16 total touchdowns in his career.
THOMAS JEFFERSON (6-1, 205, Running Back, Prospect Park, N.J., Passaic County Tech): Earned second team All-State, first team All-Passaic County, first team all-league, and first team All-North Jersey honors as a running back. … ran for 1,918 yards on 234 attempts with 20 touchdowns in 2013...rushed for over 100 yards 10 times on the season with a season-high 348 yards and two touchdowns against Hackensack and 252 yards and two touchdowns against Passaic.
JAMES KRETKOWSKI (6-6, 285, Offensive Line, Mineola, N.Y., Oceanside HS): Earned first team All-State, first team All-Long Island, first team All-Nassau County, and first team all-conference honors as a senior...named to Nassau County Golden 11 team and earned the Al Martone Award as the top lineman in Nassau County.
JOHN NASSIB (6-6, 260, Defensive End, West Chester, Pa., Malvern Prep HS): Earned first team All-Inter Ac league and 1st team all-area honors as a senior......older brother, Ryan Nassib, was a standout quarterback at Syracuse and was a fourth round NFL draft pick in 2013 by the Giants ...brother, Carl, is a defensive end at Penn State...father, Gil, played tight end at Delaware in 1977-79 and was a member of the Blue Hens’ 1979 NCAA Division II national championship team.
BILAL NICHOLS (6-4, 250, Defensive End, Newark, Hodgson HS): First team All-State at tight end and third team at defensive end in 2013...caught 13 passes for 326 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior and recorded 57 tackles, including 11 sacks and 26 tackles for loss.
JETHRO PEPE (6-6, 245, Offensive Lineman, Colonia, N.J., St. Joseph’s HS): Earned second team all-area and first team all-division honors as a senior … caught five passes for 98 yards as a tight end...recorded nine sacks, six pass breakups, one interception, and one forced fumble on defense.
JAKE POWELL (6-5, 220, Tight End, Marlton, N.J., Cherokee HS): Earned second team All-State, first team All-State Group V, first team All-South Jersey, first team all-county, and first team all-conference in 2013... caught 78 passes for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns over his final three seasons...fourth all-time leading receiver in Cherokee history and record-holder among tight ends. … father is a 1988 Delaware graduate and a former standout member of the Blue Hen baseball team. … older brother, Tyler, is a starting outfielder for the UD baseball team.
FRANK RAGGO (5-9, 163, Kicker, Randolph, N.J., Randolph HS): Earned All-State Group 4 honors as a senior... kicked 13 career field goals, including four of 40-plus yards, and booted 52 touchbacks, including 23 as a senior...was 101 of 112 on extra points, including 30-30 accuracy as a senior. … Grandfather, Julio Mazzei, was head coach of the New York Cosmos and star Pele of the NASL.
DONTE RAYMOND (6-1, 203, Linebacker, Rahway, N.J., Rahway HS): Named first team all-county and Group 2 and second team all-area at linebacker as a senior... posted 93 solo tackles, seven sacks, and two forced fumbles on defense and rushed for five touchdowns on offense as a senior.
BRYAN REED (6-3, 295, Offensive Line, Mount Sinai, N.Y., Mount Sinai): Earned Class A All-State honors in 2013 when he also was named all-county and all-conference.. selected as one of the Top 100 players on Long Island.
JOSEPH WALKER (6-3, 185, Quarterback, Philadelphia, Pa., Martin Luther King HS): Earned All-Southeastern Pennsylvania honors as a senior…. named first team All-Public League, first team All-City (Philadelphia Daily News), and Most Valuable Player of the Public League AAA Conference... played in the City vs. Catholic All-Star Game and in the Chesapeake Bowl (all-star game featuring top players in Mid-Atlantic area) last December in Virginia Beach... threw for a Public League record 1,698 yards and rushed for another 800 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013...completed 229 of 559 passes for 3,795 yards and 48 touchdowns in his high school career, ranking No. 1 in touchdowns and No. 3 in yardage in Public League history...also rushed for 23 career touchdowns...his 71 combined touchdowns are a Public League career record.
BRANDON WHALEY (6-4, 230, Tight End, Haymarket, Va., Battlefield HS): First team all-conference at both tight end and defensive end and all-region at tight end in 2013.. caught 41 passes for 749 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career, including 22 receptions for five TDs in 2013.
KAREEM WILLIAMS (5-10, 185, Running Back, Schnecksville, Pa., Parkland HS): Earned All-State, all-area, and all-league honors at running back as a senior. …rushed for 1,932 yards and 23 TDs and averaged 7.3 yards per carry as a senior...rushed for 309 yards and four touchdowns in district title game win over Easton. … brother, Andre, capped a stellar collegiate football career at Boston College this past fall as he earned All-American honors, led the nation in rushing with 2,177 yards, set the BC career rushing yardage record (3,739), and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.