To say University of Delaware redshirt freshman running back Will Knight put together a decorated high school career at nearby Smyrna High is quite possibly an understatement. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound tailback carried the rock for the Eagles as they soared to three consecutive Delaware state championships. Knight became Delaware’s all-time leading rusher at the high-school level and was named the Gatorade High School Player of the Year in the First State.
After spending his true freshman campaign at FBS Old Dominion, Knight decided to transfer to Delaware this spring, the school to which he verbally committed before ultimately signing with the Monarchs on early Signing Day 2017. He participated in the maximum four contests at ODU to retain his freshman eligibility under the NCAA’s current redshirt rules and thus has four years to contribute for the Blue Hens. Knight accumulated 27 touches for 118 yards and a touchdown and had seven receptions for 95 yards in his lone season at Old Dominion.
The young halfback, who is looking to study health behavior science with a business minor, is not alone among members of the UD football program returning to the state of Delaware in 2019: Assistant head coach and running backs coach Bill Cubit rejoins his alma mater this season. The former Western Michigan and Illinois head coach set school records for the Blue Hens at wide receiver in 1974, notching marks for catches in a game (10) and in a season (47).
Naturally, the significant renovations to Delaware Stadium and the ongoing construction of the adjoining Whitney Athletic Center have provided Cubit with some much-needed fresh scenery since his days as a student-athlete at UD.
“When I came back here, the stadium was the exact same thing except for the turf,” Cubit said of going-on-68-year-old Delaware Stadium after a preseason practice. “I think our donors have stepped up to the plate and created a facility that’s going to rival [that of] a lot of BCS-type teams.”
Meanwhile, Knight is no stranger to playing on Tubby Raymond Field itself. Smyrna completed its three-peat at none other than Delaware Stadium, which hosts the Delaware state high school football championships.
“The only thing that changed is me being in college,” Knight says. “I already experienced being on this field, honestly, so I get to strap it up in blue and gold and compete with Division I athletes and help them get better and help them help me get better.”
Among those DI athletes with whom Knight has collaborated thus far at Delaware is quarterback Nolan Henderson, whose mobile skill set is expected to have him angling for spots of playing time in 2019 behind returning starter Pat Kehoe. Henderson and Knight were a monster tandem at Smyrna in its first pair of state titles.
“It’s always great to come back home and see familiar faces and be able to compete with some of the players that we actually played against,” Knight said of reuniting with Henderson and rejoining on the practice field with some of their old Delaware high school opponents.
“And now, just as a whole, we’re stronger than ever… Keeping the in-state kids in-state and just starting to try to build a legacy from here on out.”
Knight joins a talented Blue Hens backfield that already stars junior DeJoun Lee and redshirt senior Andre Robinson, but he has impressed throughout fall camp.
“No. 1, he’s got a great personality and wants to work; he’s a hard worker,” Cubit said. “And that overcomes a lot of things, so when he comes in here, he’s willing to learn, he understands what we’re trying to teach him, he’s energetic every time he comes out on the field. He’s a very skillful guy; he can run, he can catch, he can block. He does all of the necessary ingredients that you need as a running back. The thing I like about him is just his will to be a great, great player.”
“Will is very gifted,” added third-year Delaware head coach Danny Rocco. “He is really tailor-made for this offense and this system. He is extraordinarily talented. He got off to a great start. I think he hit a little bit of a plateau as we started to really put in volume on offense and a lot of things started to run together a little bit. I think he sorted everything out this week and he’s certainly going to be out here carrying the ball for us this year.”
Knight expressed that he’s increasingly comfortable in new offensive coordinator Jared Ambrose’s offense.
“For me and the running backs … it’s just clockwork. He [Ambrose] helps us as best as he can to make it simple and short so we can play as fast as we can on the field.”
In the end, though, Knight happily acknowledges that his decision to transfer to Delaware went beyond the X’s and O’s.
On his family’s presence in Delaware, Knight added, “I feel like it was a good impact because I get to see my younger brother play and they’re able to come out here 45 minutes up the road and get to see me play, so I feel like it’s a blessing, actually, to be home … Just to compete with all the in-state kids and be able to just grind out and start to make legacies this year and make history.”