The experience of starting every game as a true freshman is expected to benefit Hens safety Ray Jones, a former Hodgson Vo-Tech star. Brad Myers/The News Journal
Ray Jones got caught looking the wrong way a few times last season.
It was to be expected from a true freshman starting every game in the defensive backfield in his first season of college football at the University of Delaware.
But now the 6-foot, 210-pound safety has 11 games – and an entire offseason of watching film and correcting mistakes – under his belt. He knows what to look for, and when he looks the right way, good things happen.
“He’s a really physical player,” Blue Hens coach Dave Brock said. “He’s a really ball-hawking player. Those things will improve with getting bigger, faster, stronger, but I think the discipline and the eye talent, those types of things in his game will be so much better this year.
“He’ll have a chance to probably make a number of plays in 2016 that he wasn’t quite able to make in 2015.”
That should be good news for Delaware, because Jones made plenty of good plays last season. The Wilmington resident stepped right out of Hodgson Vo-Tech and made an immediate impact with the Hens, breaking up six passes and finishing sixth on the team with 41 tackles, including 26 solo stops.
“It was a hard adjustment when I first got here, but as the year went on and I got a year under my belt everything started to come slowly to me,” Jones said. “I want to build off what I did last year and become a better player.”
Jones could already see the difference last Friday, during UD’s first practice of the preseason.
“My main mistake that I had last year was probably my eyes in covering receivers,” he said. “And more angles, better angles. I worked on that all summer, and today it showed. I had a couple of pass breakups and good coverage on caught balls.”
Jones also hopes to continue to get a chance to show some of the running skills that made him the Delaware high school Offensive Player of the Year in 2014. He finished second in the Colonial Athletic Association in kickoff returns with 29 runbacks for 671 yards, a 23.1-yard average, last year.
“Ray will be a dynamic player,” Brock said. “Ray was a really good player last year. I think what you’re going to find is young guys who played as much as he played and played as well as he played, what you’ll see out of him is now he’s going to have such a confidence about him.”
Henry commits to Hens
Delaware has picked up a second in-state recruit for 2017, as St. Elizabeth offensive lineman Mickey Henry has given a verbal commitment to the Blue Hens.
Henry was also being pursued by UD’s Colonial Athletic Association rivals New Hampshire, Towson, Stony Brook and William & Mary, along with Lafayette. But a visit to the Newark campus last Wednesday sealed his decision.
“I live in Delaware, but I had never actually seen the university,” Henry said. “When I saw it, it really stood out to me. To me, it was a no-brainer when I got there. It just felt right.”
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Henry played at Delaware Military Academy as a freshman, then went to Eastern Christian Academy in Elkton, Md., as a sophomore. He left ECA four games into his junior season last year, transferring to St. Elizabeth and playing in the Vikings’ final five games.
“He worked hard to get there, and it’s a great honor that he has the ability to play in his own backyard at UD in 2017,” St. E coach Joe Aviola said.
Smyrna quarterback Nolan Henderson gave his commitment to the Hens on July 20. Henderson and Henry are expected to join Salesianum’s Troy and Colby Reeder, Indian River’s Jamie Jarmon, Hodgson’s Ray Jones and Bilal Nichols, St. Georges’ Stefon Woodruff, William Penn’s Chichi Amachi and Caravel’s Lloyd Badson as recent Delaware high school graduates signing football scholarships with the Hens.
“He’s true to what he says, that he’s serious about keeping in-state talent here if they’re good enough to play at his level,” Aviola said of UD coach Dave Brock. “I think he’s shown that with the Reeders and some other good players here. … I think Mickey will be a nice fit for the University of Delaware.”
Henry said a close relationship with the Reeder brothers played a role. He has known them since he played CYM football for St. John the Beloved and the Reeders played for Holy Angels.
“When UD offered me, I asked them questions,” Henry said. “How they felt about some coaches, or how they felt about the school. They really helped me through it. They didn’t really recruit me much, but they just helped me as a friend and helped me make a decision.”
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ