New University of Delaware football coach Dave Brock has not been shy about his core philosophies when it comes to executing an offense. Brock believes in an attacking brand of football where you establish the run first and then try for the big play.
“We’re going to be predicated on running the ball,” the first-year head coach said. “I think running the ball is one of the most critical components to the passing game. When you can run the ball and defenses are going to say, ‘hey we’re going to have to try to allocate certain numbers of people to stop the run,’ then they have to make a decision. And the decision [Delaware State] made on Saturday was to play us one-on-one. If that happens, then we’re going to have to take our shots. And if we make enough of those shots, then we’ll be hard to deal with offensively.”
So far through two games it has worked pretty well. The Hens have scored a combined 93 points in victories over the Hornets and Jacksonville. A big part of that has been the playmaking ability of junior wide receiver Michael Johnson, who has been the benefactor of many of those “shots.” The Gainesville, FL native has caught 11 balls for UD during the team’s 2-0 start and has averaged better than 18 yards per reception.
“You’ve got a very, very special player here,” Brock said with a big smile on his mouth. “And I’ve coached some really good ones. I think he’s a go-to player and I think he’s the kind of guy that’s going to perform regardless of how big the spotlight is. As I tell [quarterback] Trent Hurley all the time, ‘give him a shot.’ The more chances he has and the more opportunities we have to target him, the better we will play on offense because I think he’ll come through and make plays.”
To that point, the Delaware coach said he makes sure his offensive staff goes into every contest with a calculated strategy on how to make sure Johnson gets the ball in his hands enough.
“When you’re a really good player, you deserve opportunities,” Brock said. “So our job as coaches is to make sure that you get what we call targets. We want to target Michael ‘x’ number of times. A target may be a reverse, it may be a double-pass, it may be a deep ball or a play-action pass. You really have to go into a game with a plan to do it for a wide receiver. It’s not like [a running back] where you can call a play and just hand it to them. You have to have a pretty defined plan going into the game and I think we will every week because Mike is a very valuable asset.”
His ability is not defined by pure statistics. Brock said he feels similarly about Johnson as he does about running the football. His top wide receiver is the type of guy who can generate opportunities for his teammates by his mere presence.
“If they’re going to put a guy on him and overtop of him in double-coverage, then you’ll have one-one-ones everywhere else and you’re going to have a friendlier front to look at running the ball,” Brock said. “So he can create a lot of opportunities for us offensively without catching the ball. That’s where he’s got to be a smart player and a young guy who realizes: ‘there may be games where I impact the game as much as I do when I catch six or seven balls for 120 yards as I do when I catch three for 50 or 60 because we were able to run the ball.’ You have to understand your role and his role is certainly to be a playmaker, but at times when defenses choose to try and take him away, he’s really helping the offensive unit from a production standpoint.”
He also aids Delaware’s cause with his work ethic. Johnson plays every snap as though it were his last, even the ones he takes on special teams. That’s a characteristic Brock said is noticed by his teammates.
“He comes out every day, he punches the clock, he works and he gives it everything he’s got,” Brock said. “I watch him on special teams and here’s a guy who, in my opinion, is an elite player at this level, and he’s out there straining and straining to get it done for us on special teams. I love that and I think that speaks to what we want the DNA of the team to be.”
“I think Michael is a terrific young guy. I think when you have the right people, you’ll always have enough talent and to me [Michael] is the right guy.”
The Hens are just happy Johnson is their guy.