SU football notebook: Hornets could get creative with offensive personnel

WINCHESTER – Though Shenandoah University’s football team will replace four starters along the offensive line this season, the Hornets boast plenty of experience and depth at the skill positions.

With the return of starting quarterback Hayden Bauserman, senior running back Cedrick Delaney (and able backups Jalen Hudson and Dalaun Richardson) and a host of receiving options at their disposal, SU head coach Scott Yoder and his staff have been actively seeking ways to get all of that firepower on the field in 2016.

That just might mean the Hornets will feature an extensive use of two-running back schemes this fall. Lacking an experienced tight end after the departure of Miles Green, regularly sacrificing that position this fall in order to put two tailbacks on the field at the same time is likely to produce what Yoder called “our best personnel group.”

“It’s not new for us, but I think what’s new for us is the commitment to say our second tailback is probably more productive and explosive than our fourth and fifth wide receiver,” Yoder said Sunday. “That’s what our thought is.”

Yoder, who held high praise for Hudson’s performance in preseason camp, said the use of two running backs doesn’t necessarily mean both will line up in the backfield at the same time.

Delaney, who led the Old Dominion Athletic Conference in rushing in 2014 before racking up 1,554 all-purpose yards (1,035 rushing) last season, came to Shenandoah as a slot receiver and could be used in that role more often this year, Yoder said. Delaney has caught 71 passes for 775 yards and six touchdowns in three seasons.

“I mean you split Cedrick Delaney out, everyone’s gonna be looking at him, and now what does that give us inside?” Yoder said. “Not to not get the ball to Cedrick, but use him more as a – decoy’s the wrong word – but just give some people some different looks that Cedrick Delaney, the best player on Shenandoah’s team, doesn’t always line up in this one spot. That’s what our hope is.”

Hornets offensive coordinator Stan Hodgin said the team will also expand the role of backup quarterback Travis Barton Jr. this season. Barton, who caught two passes last season (one for a touchdown), could be used in the slot as well this fall, Yoder said, where he would join a group that includes the four of the team’s top five wide receivers from last year in Leonard Scott (34 receptions, 411 yards, 6 TDs), Michael Ashwell (29 receptions, 324 yards), Jalen Brisco and Qlyl Middelijn.

INSIDE MAN: Yoder, who doubles as his own defensive coordinator, said the “biggest question mark” surrounding the Hornets’ defense as the team prepares for its Sept. 3 season opener remains the inside linebacker combination.

SU has established veteran Micheal Wroble (206 career tackles) firmly entrenched at one of the inside linebacker spots in its 4-4 scheme, but Yoder is still searching for someone to fill the void left by Michael Messick, who graduated as the program’s all-time tackles leader.

Yoder said senior Cody Miller (a Strasburg High School graduate), junior Dante Richardson, sophomores Marty Stevenson and John Edwards and freshmen Steve Gebhardt and Bernie Hayes were all in competition for that spot early in camp, a group with a combined 15 collegiate tackles to their credit.

Stevenson emerged as the early favorite for the starting spot, according to Yoder on Sunday, although he added that Miller will “definitely” see playing time this fall.

“I don’t wanna say it’s (Stevenson’s) job to lose, but he’s shown the most consistent ‘I can make the plays’ and that’s who we’d play tomorrow,” Yoder said. “But you know how we played before where it was Wroble and Messick until we had to carry them off with their shield – it’s not gonna be like that this year. It’s gonna be if you’re playing well we’re gonna ride you. If you’re not, next guy’s coming in.”

ROAD TO RECOVERY: Kicker Jacob Newton suffered through a season-long knee injury last fall before being shut down for the final two games in 2015, and Yoder said the junior is still working his way back to form.

Newton was cleared to resume football activities after July 4 after being sidelined for nearly six months, Yoder said, and although he’s healthy, Newton is “not where he needs to be yet.”

“You can go out there and kick and feel good, but now it’s the timing, getting back into it,” Yoder said. “And now you’ve got a new snapper, you’ve gotta work with all that stuff. He’ll get there, he’s just not as sharp right now as we’d like him to be.”

Newton made 12 of 14 field goals (long of 44 yards) and 28 of 33 extra points as a freshman en route to second team all-ODAC honors in 2014 but made just 3 of 8 field goals last season.

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