HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs, with three teams being released each day from June 17 to July 28. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 1-4. Today, we present … Elon.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country, with HERO Sports.
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ELON (6-5 IN 2018)
CAA (Elon was 4th in CAA in 2018)
COACH: Tony Trisciani – At School: 1st year (0-0 record), Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2018 (First Round loss to Wofford)
2018 OFFENSE: 24.4 ppg. (87th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 23.6 ppg. (33rd in FCS)
KEY GAME: Nov. 23 – @ Towson: There's no question this game will have playoff implications when it rolls around in the regular season finale. Both these programs are playoff caliber and rankable, and last year the Tigers knocked injury-plagued Elon around late in the year. This should be a barn-burner and a factor in putting the top of the CAA standings in order.
SUM IT UP: How can you not be impressed with this Elon program the past two years? Last season, prior to key injuries on offense decimating the team, the Phoenix were 4-1 after knocking off James Madison on its home soil before key injuries on offense began taking their toll. And as anybody at the FCS level knows, this level doesn't have the luxury of depth that the P5s have. Four losses to eventual FCS playoff teams ensued. In the past two seasons, with Elon at full strength, the program is 12-5 and has made the playoffs two straight seasons after winning 12 total games in the five seasons prior (2012-16).
So head coach Curt Cignetti moved on to CAA foe James Madison, but left the program in fine hands with Tony Trisciani, who had been on staff both playoff seasons. Trisciani also brings back three assistants who have been on board for all of the success, but also has some fresh faces on staff. Also, he has 14 starters back to work with — including one of the biggest sparks in the program's resurgence the past two years, quarterback Davis Cheek. He was injured in last year's Delaware game, but he'll be at full strength by this fall. There's a lot to smile about here, and that's why Elon holds the No. 12 spot in the HERO Sports preseason Top 25.
So what has made this program tick the past few years? Hard-nosed, no frills football — that's what. It runs the ball well, plays tough defense in a conference known for tough defense, owns the turnover margin and led the nation last year in fewest penalties per game. When it is in the redzone, its offense gets it done. Put simply, this is a disciplined, hard-working, keep-your-ego-in-your-pocket, smart playing bunch — and that pays off when the playoffs roll around. Cheek will have some nice weapons back on offense, but he will need some new linemen to step up as some good ones have graduated (Google Oli Udoh and you'll see a guy in an NFL uniform). On defense, the three-man front is completely intact and very mean. The secondary looks strong again too, but some new standouts will need to emerge at linebacker.
OUR TAKE: There's a reason we have this program at No. 12 in the preseason. Yes, there are FCS programs that return more than 14 starters, but we like the look and feel of this program and where it's heading — and we like its leadership under center, which obviously is critical at any level of football. Cheek was a special recruiting victory when he chose Elon, and he's been effective from day one, and we think that's only going to progress. While games versus Wake Forest and James Madison will be immense challenges, there isn't another game on the schedule that feels like an "underdog" situation — but of course several of them do have that 50/50 feel. That's the CAA for you. We think we're staring at a seven or eight-win type season for the Phoenix with another FCS playoff trip.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Jr./QB Davis Cheek (3,500 career passing yards through 2 seasons, true leader in the program)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./DB Greg Liggs (2nd leading tackler last year, 65 tacklers, 4 INTs, 9 PBUs); Sr./DL Marcus Willoughby (58 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, 7 hurries); Soph./RB Jaylan Thomas (761 yds rushing, 4 TDs); Sr./WR Cole Taylor (524 yards receiving); Jr./WR Kortez Weeks (484 yards receiving); Sr./OL Matt Kowalewski (returning RG starter); Jr./OL Chad Nelson (returning LG starter); Soph./PK Skyler Davis (17 for 22 on field goals); Sr./DB Daniel Reid-Bennett (55 tackles, 7 passes defensed).
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./DB Omar Rogers (HERO Sports Top 200 signee — reported a Virginia offer and 4 FBS offers overall)
THE QUOTE: "Overall as a football program, I like where we are. We have some real good players that aren't out here yet that we haven't had a chance to see but everyone who has been practicing this spring has really done a good job. They've practiced with a purpose, developed some skills and we have a better idea of where we are in the secondary with some of those skill positions. That was another area where we lost three seniors and you have to figure out where the pieces are going to fit and I'm happy there. Overall we're happy with what we've seen and we're excited for the future." — Head Coach Tony Trisciani said during spring ball
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Elon Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of CAA
Albany | Delaware | Elon | James Madison
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