2015 Football: Motivated Delaney eager to follow up on breakout season

Shenandoah's Cedric Delaney runs past defenders during a game last year. Courtesy photo/Keith Lucas ©Sideline Media Productions

WINCHESTER – Cedrick Delaney had quite the experience in 2014.

Entering his sophomore season at Shenandoah University, Delaney made the switch from slot receiver to his natural position at running back. What followed was the greatest rushing performance in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference in 2014.

Delaney finished last season with 1,239 rushing yards, the top mark in the ODAC and the fourth-best individual rushing performance in all of Division III last fall. There was the school and conference record-setting performance at Emory and Henry, a game in which Delaney rushed for 321 yards and scored four times. There was the first-team All-ODAC selection at the end of the season, followed by a third-team nod on the D3football.com All-South Region team.

And yet before all of Delaney’s on-field accomplishments in 2014, there came the birth of his daughter, Caidence, just days before Delaney began fall camp with the Hornets. Delaney, already eager to slide into the role as the Hornets new running back, had new fuel.

“It’s a big motivation just having someone else to fight for, knowing that everything I do now is for her,” Delaney said following the Hornets’ first day of practice on Aug. 16. “That’s always in the back of my head every time I step on the field. Every touchdown, everything I do is for her basically.”

When springtime rolled around, Delaney opted to skip Shenandoah’s spring practice to spend more time with his daughter – who turned a year old in August – instead using the time to rest his body after the beating he took after carrying the ball 199 times last fall.

But over the summer Delaney worked out with some former Osbourn High School teammates – some who entered the NFL draft earlier this year, he said – while focusing on refining his technique and preparing for the challenge that lies ahead of him following his breakout season.

“I know I’m a target now in the conference so it’s going to be even harder for me this year but I feel like I’m up for the challenge. I’m ready for it,” Delaney said. “It’s going to make me work harder with everything I do. I like the challenge that’s ahead of me, so we’re just going to see how it plays out.”

Delaney said he actually dropped a few pounds in the offseason in order to gain more speed, an attribute that has already served him well at Shenandoah and earned him the title as the Hornets’ “home run threat,” according to head coach Scott Yoder.

“He’s shifty and can make people miss, obviously, and in the open field he’s as good as there is,” Yoder said. “We’ve got to find ways to get him the ball and he’s not going to surprise anybody this year, at all. So we’re going to have to get a little bit more creative and I think him being a year older and a year wiser lets us do some other things with him.”

It’s hard to imagine Delaney doing much more than he’s already done at Shenandoah.

As a college freshman in 2013, Delaney – a running back at Osbourn – was moved to slot receiver in order to get him on the field, a switch necessitated by the presence of former Hornets running back Andrew Smith, who was firmly entrenched in the starting role. That season Delaney caught 22 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns while seeing action in all 10 games.

Even in his return to the backfield last season, Delaney still showed off his versatility as he hauled in 24 catches – second most on the team – for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

“You’ve got to find ways to get him the football,” Yoder said. “That’s one of the reasons that we put him at tailback, just because that’s the easiest place to get him the ball.”

Delaney’s role in 2015 becomes all the more important as the Hornets will be breaking in a new quarterback following the graduation of two-year starter Drew Ferguson, although Delaney won’t be alone in carrying that burden. Shenandoah’s offensive line returns three starters, and senior Kye Hopkins (526 rushing yards, eight touchdowns in 2014) and junior Dalaun Richardson (216 rushing yards last season) return to join Delaney in the backfield.

With Delaney providing the speed, Hopkins the power and Richardson a combination of both, the Hornets are set up to continue the rushing success they had a season ago, although Yoder said the health of those three tailbacks remains a priority after all three were “limping at times” in 2014.

“Staying healthy is my number one goal,” Delaney said. “Having no fumbles this year. My other goal is winning the championship this year. I don’t want to go 4-6. At least have a winning record. And have more yardage. And staying humble, that’s the main thing right there.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com