DOVER, Del.- The Delaware State University football team began its annual spring camp Tuesday. The camp will include 15 practice sessions, culminating in the Red/White scrimmage on Apr. 13 at Alumni Stadium.
Delaware State third-year head coach Kermit Blount expects more than 70 players to participate in this year's camp.
The Hornets are projected to return 12 starters from their 2012 squad, which posted the team's first winning record since 2007. DSU was 6-5 overall and tied for third in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with a 5-3 mark in the league.
Delaware State must replace a number of key players, including quarterback Nick Elko, the 2012 MEAC Offensive Player-of-the-Year; and three other All-MEAC First Team performers.
Elko completed his DSU career as No. 2 in team history in passing yards (5,754) and completions (539); and third in touchdown passes (37). He set school season records for completions (259) and passing yards (2,828) last season.
Cory Murphy (r-jr.; 6-2, 205), a 2012 junior college transfer, and Esayah Obado (r-fr.; 6-200) are the two quarterbacks in spring camp this year. Each was listed on the 2012 Hornet roster, but did not see playing time.
"Both of these guys (Murphy and Obado) are familiar with our system and have the ability to lead our team," said Blount. "Each has worked hard during the off-season; and I'm eager to see how far they've come this spring."
The Hornets must also replace All-MEAC wide receivers Travis Tarpley and Justin Wilson.
Tarpley, also a 2012 Sheridan Broadcast Network Black College All-American, was tops in the MEAC in receptions (7.8 pg) and receiving yards (96.2 pg); and tied for first in the league in touchdown catches (7). Wilson was third in the MEAC in receptions (6.0 pg) and receiving yards (73.3 pg) last season. He led the league in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions in 2010.
Milton Williams (so.; 6-3, 200) and Bo Ceravolo (jr.; 6-1, 185) are among several players who will battle to replace Tarpley and Wilson as starting wide receivers.
Delaware State's running game appears strong heading into spring camp.
Malcolm Williams (jr.; 5-10, 180) is the top returning rusher with 437 yards in 2012 (4.9 ypc). Dae-Hon Cheung (so.; 5-9, 180) rushed for 410 yards (5.0 ypc) and three touchdowns, while Nagee Jackson had 238 yards rushing and a team-high seven touchdowns on the ground last season. Each player had at least one 100-yard rushing game in 2012.
The Hornet offensive line will return three starters, led by 2012 All-MEAC Second Team center Brandon Cunningham (r-sr.; 6-2, 280). Keon Williams (so,; 6-2, 280) is emerging star at left guard.
The biggest loss along the offensive line is left tackle Nail Muradymov, a 2012 All-MEAC First Team performer.
Delaware State has seven starters returning on defense participating in spring camp, led by 2012 All-MEAC First Team players Davon Moore (jr.; 5-11, 195) at defensive back and inside linebacker Ernest Adjei (sr.; 6-0, 235).
Moore was third in the MEAC in tackles (8.8 pg; 97 total) and third for third with four interceptions in 2012. His 175 interception return yards were tops in the MEAC and second among all FCS players last season.
Adjei was tied for sixth in the MEAC in tackles at 8.5 per game last season (93 total).
Delaware State defensive returners also include defensive back Terrick Colston (so.; 6-1, 190) and left end Rodney Gunter (jr.; 6-5, 300). Each was selected to the 2012 All-MEAC Second Team.
Colston, a 2012 Jerry Rice Award nominee (top FCS freshman), was second on the Hornets and fifth in the MEAC in tackles (8.6 pg; 95 total) last season.
Gunter was tied for seventh in the MEAC in sacks (0.5 pg; 5.5 total) and tops among DSU defensive linemen with 49 tackles (27 solo) last season.
Delaware State placekicker Mitchell Ward (jr.; 6-1, 180) and punter Marko Kano (jr.; 6-6, 220) also return. Ward was 12-for-19 on field goal attempts and perfect on 28 extra-point kicks in 2012. Kano averaged 39.4 yards (long 62) on 42 punts last season.
Returning defensive back Joe Boyd (jr.; 6-0, 195) was fourth on the team with 87 tackles last season. He was also credited with 3.5 tackles-for-loss, an interception and two forced fumbles.
"Spring camp is vital in our efforts to improve our team," Blount said. "It's important that we are strong in our techniques and begin to develop quality players at all positions."