photo by Mark Campbell

2008 Outlook

An interview with Coach Keeler

72 Hen, GoHens.net special correspondent
August 13, 2008

Our intrepid 72 Hen gets the inside scoop on Delaware Football for 2008 direct from Coach K.C. Keeler himself. This year, coach went to great length on his view on transfers.

GH: Coach, There seems to have been a shift in the recruiting areas from the beginning of your tenure as we haven’t seen as many southern players as were in your first few classes. Was there a particular reason for this? What do you consider Delaware’s main recruiting area?

Keeler: Our recruiting philosophy is that we want to dominate [within] 4 hours of UD. NJ, PA, MD, DE, VA, and NY are all critical areas for us. Then from there, we work our way into MA, GA, FL and the Carolinas. One reason why we focus so hard in a 4 hour radius is because it is a lot easier to win the recruiting wars in our own back yard because they might have a neighbor, counselor, etc that has gone here. Those alumni had a great experience and become great recruiters for us.

"Our recruiting philosophy is that we want to dominate [within] 4 hours of UD."

GH: The players that have transferred to Delaware since you have been here have proven to be excellent additions to the team. However, this question is debated every year on the GoHens site. Do you think the high number of transfers, especially quarterbacks, might inhibit some highschool recruits from coming to Delaware?

Keeler: We have never lost a QB due to a fear that a transfer may come in. Do other schools recruit that against us? Absolutely. But we have never had a player say they weren’t going to come to UD because of that.

Keeler (continued): Regarding transfers, I heard Coach Raymond say that if you don’t take them, you are usually playing against them. The number of transfers we have taken isn’t much different than the number of transfers I played with back in the 70’s. During my time at UD, which includes, the 1979 National Championship year, we had a RT from Penn State, RG from UGA, Captain from Arizona State, DT from Kansas, back-up OL from Purdue, back-up WR from Tennessee, two back-up QB’s in the program that were from West Virginia and at the time, Division I W&M, and that is just off the top of my head.

Keeler (continued): Due to the Internet, there is so much more info out there, which leads to so many more opinions. In all reality, we don’t have close to the number of transfers that UMass, Southern Illinois, or Northern Iowa has. I-AA is and always has been a transfer destination. I’m not quite sure how the program was hurt by taking players like like Andy Hall, Joe Flacco, Dan Reeder, Darrell Booker, Gary Kuhlman, Jim Brandimarte, Craig DeVries, Herb Beck, and Ted Kempski just to name a few. Is there anyone that represents the Blue Hens as well as Ted Kempski? The thing that makes us unique is that we turn down so many transfers for a million different reasons, ie no need at a position, social issues, academic concerns, etc. This past year, we turned down a starting QB from an SEC team that at one time, was one of the top recruits in America. We did that, quite simply, because we had concerns about social issues. Every player we take, whether transfer or freshmen, we work very hard at trying to get as much on them as possible in terms of their conduct, personality, character, and whether they will fit into our locker room. We live with the philosophy that it’s not the ones you lose in the recruiting process; it is the ones you take that don’t fit into your program and then hurt your program. Again, I think one of the things we do best is we bring in transfers that are the right fit for us and for them and who are good additions to our team on the field and off the field.

"Every player we take, whether transfer or freshmen, we work very hard at trying to get as much on them as possible in terms of their conduct, personality, character, and whether they will fit into our locker room. We live with the philosophy that it’s not the ones you lose in the recruiting process; it is the ones you take that don’t fit into your program and then hurt your program."

Keeler (continued): The other thing I will tell you is that UD has over 2,000 transfers on campus at this time. Students transfer for all sorts of different reasons, and to think that they are no more a Blue Hen than if they were to come here from day one, is ridiculous. In 2007 when we beat Navy, guess who was waiting for us back at UD when we drove home? Ben Patrick. Ben was on his bye week from the Arizona Cardinals. Do you know why? Because he is a Blue Hen. When you are 17-18 years old and are looking at schools, almost inevitably, bigger is better. That is why it is hard to beat I-A schools in the recruiting process. However, when you are 20-21 years old you realize that better is better and you want to find the right place for you. You look at things differently than when you were being recruited out of high school.

GH: After spring practice you were quoted in the News Journal as saying something to the effect that right now we have two second string quarterbacks and that someone needed to step up and show that he wanted to be the starter. Now with the addition of Sean Hakes is it fair to say that the starting job is a three man race? If possible can you tell us what is the strongest asset that each of the three bring to the table?

Keeler: All three of our QB’s are competing for the starting job. We felt it was important to add a 3rd to the roster in case of an injury. Both Lou and Robby were told that after spring ball, we had to bring a QB in to protect us against injury.

GH: How is Scanlon doing at safety?

Keeler: Scanlon had an okay spring with a really good spring game. He came back at the point where he was at the spring game and is playing outstanding right now. Good competition between Bratton, Cipalla, Graves and Scanlon.

GH: Aside from Kevin Uhll we appear to be quite thin at OT. Who are the leading candidates at the tackle position for this season? Were there any offensive tackles that were looking to transfer this year? With an OL that will be adding a few new faces and three inexperienced quarterbacks are you going to simplify or modify the spread? For example will you need to use more two TE sets and more two RB sets?

"The offense is absolutely going to be modified like every year based on personnel."

Keeler: Right now we are comfortable that we have 4 of the 5 OL positions solidified. Nicholson to Tackle and Herrman having a good camp at Guard. Question is who is 5th, and beyond that and just as important, who is going to be 6 & 7 on the depth chart since you need that going into the season. Herrman has flexibility and can play center. The offense is absolutely going to be modified like every year based on personnel. Having inexperience at QB means simplification in some ways and some new diversity in other ways.

GH: Do you expect that all of the defensive players will be ready to practice in August? Will you specifically address the status of VonDuyke, Marcorelle and Talley? Is there any chance that Matt Marcorelle has enough practice time to move to LB on a full time basis?

Keeler: Obviously we believe that our defense has a chance to be pretty good. There are a number of high-level players coming back with the addition of a lot of depth from our younger players from last year. Due to Matt missing the entire spring, you will not see him as a full time LB however there are times where we will put him in a position to play up and move him around.

GH: Are there any differences between Coach Ginn and Coach Ciarrocca approach in their offensive philosophies?

Keeler: I am very comfortable with [Coach Ginn] as the OC. Primarily for a couple of reasons. Kirk Ciarrocca does an incredible job of making sure that his coaching staff understands everything about our offense. Kirk did a great job mentoring Brian. Along with the experiences as a former QB and coaching WR and RB in our system, it made it a fairly easy choice. Secondly, Brian has an outstanding OL coach with Damian Wroblewski to work with, which made my comfort level stronger. Third thing was getting Gregg Perry back. I wanted an experienced voice in the staff room and on game day. Gregg is a great football coach and great person and already had a relationship with Brian.

GH: Our extra point, field goal and punting has been very good. Sometimes the kick-offs are a little short. Does Ed Wagner have a strong enough leg that he might be used as a kick-off specialist?

Keeler: We are going to allow Jon Striefsky, Ed Wagner, and Mike Perry to compete for the kick-off job. Everything will be charted and the most productive kicker will kick off.

"I am trying to push for as many I-AA opponents in our stadium as possible."

GH: I know that you said that you leave the scheduling up to Edgar Johnson but how does the no-bye schedule affect your interest in playing BCS schools in the future? Is there any school, or conference, that you would like to schedule?

Keeler: I am getting more involved in scheduling. Playing BCS schools is not the avenue I would like to go down. The fact that our conference is brutal to begin with and that we make a significant amount of money on our home games, I am trying to push for as many I-AA opponents in our stadium as possible.

GH: It appears that all the behind-the-scenes work that you have been doing for stadium/facility improvements is beginning to take off. Have you been able to use the planned improvements as a recruiting tool? Can you give us any updates regarding stadium/facility improvement timetables?

Keeler: The brand new practice facility is incredible, Jumbo-Tron is up, and there is a new score board on the BCC for the north end zone fans and players to see. I believe that the goal is to have something in writing (or drawn) from HOK, the architecture firm that we hired, by the first game to give the fans a direction that we are headed in.