He’s a two-time Walter Camp All-American, Associated Press All-American and pretty much every-outlet-you-can-think-of All-American.
But Dee Delaney, the highly decorated University of Miami graduate transfer cornerback out of The Citadel, figured it was time for a bigger, better challenge – just like he figured when he switched to cornerback in college after amassing 899 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns as a high school senior in Beaufort, South Carolina.
“At first you don’t want to get out of your comfort zone so you’re a little nervous,’’ Delaney said Tuesday. “But for me, I wanted to challenge myself…to see if I could play with the big guys.
“It’s just a humbling experience. I take each and every day I wake up and say, ‘Thank you God.’’’
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The Hurricanes coaches are likely saying the same thing.
After graduate transfer corner Adrian Colbert was drafted in the seventh round by the San Francisco 49ers, and starting corner Corn Elder went in the fifth round to the Carolina Panthers (not to mention the departure of starting safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter), the Canes knew they needed top-tier talent in the backfield.
Enter NFL prospect Delaney (and fellow talented transfer Jhavonte Dean, unavailable to the media on Tuesday), who apparently is living up to his billing.
“Dee Delaney,’’ defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Tuesday, “has got ball skills. Some guys, if you throw it near them, they’re going to catch it.’’
Indeed. At 6-1 and 193 pounds, Delaney isn’t just a hard-hitting, lock-down defender, he can catch. He led the FCS Citadel’s Southern Conference with six interceptions last season for 163 return yards, and is tied for second in career interceptions, with 13.
“I don’t think he takes a snap for granted,’’ starting linebacker Zach McCloud said.
And this, from starting safety Jaquan Johnson: “He’s smart. He’s out here making plays like he was here last year.’’
Other than the talent being “up a notch’’ at Miami, Delaney said the speed of the game has been the biggest football adjustment from The Citadel, also known as “The Military School of South Carolina.’’
At the Citadel, cadets wear military uniforms and lived by the motto: “Duty, Honor, Respect.’’
The Citadel, Delaney said, is “way’’ stricter.
“Here these guys have discipline also. It’s just not as strict as the military side of things.’’
UM cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph has been happily surprised at how “strong and physical and athletic’’ Delaney is, and how he’s already a leader after one week of camp.
“He’s almost taking control of my room already,’’ Rumph said. “He’s a guy who’s disciplined… a little older and urgent, similar to Adrian Colbert last year. We’re excited about him. He looked the part but I didn’t know he was as intuitive as he is. He asks a lot of questions, some good questions…that really pertain to the rookies. So, he’s kind of showing the room how to ask questions, even though he already knows the answers.’’
On the field, Rumph said Delaney is an adept tackler who can defend the triple option, has good size and the valuable “ability to flip his hips.’’
“He steps up for the big games’’ such as South Carolina and FSU,’’ Rumph said. “I saw [him] going against one of the top receivers in the SEC with South Carolina and one of the best in the game…with Dalvin Cook.’’
The Hurricanes open the season at home Sept. 2 against Bethune-Cookman. Expect to see plenty of Delaney.
“Just excited to see how he acts when he gets in our stadium with the crowd in there,’’ Rumph said, “and how he plays in that situation.’’
▪ Linebacker Michael Pinckney, nursing a hamstring strain/pull, for the first time since Thursday used both legs to pedal on the conditioning bike instead of just one. Pinckney has missed five consecutive practices...Receiver Evidence Njoku (hyperextended left knee) was next to Pinckney, pedaling with his right foot.
▪ Tight end Michael Irvin II (dehydration) was at practice for the first time in several days.
▪ Receiver Lawrence Cager joined usual punt returners Jeff Thomas and DeeJay Dallas.