A year ago, Elon was among the few programs around college football nearing the end of its spring practice season. The Phoenix were coming off a strong finish to their first season under head coach Tony Trisciani, which concluded with an impressive win over nationally ranked Towson.
Then, the pandemic hit.
Elon will look to reestablish momentum after a yearlong layoff, welcoming back a veteran roster with playmakers on both sides of the ball. The Phoenix are built to emerge as the surprise of the Colonial Athletic Association in 2021, no matter if that’s in the spring or fall.
Head Coach: Tony Trisciani (Second year at Elon, 5-6; second season overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Drew Folmar
Defensive Coordinator: Billy Crocker
2019 Record: 5-6, 4-4 CAA
Elon replaces some of the top defensive talents from the 2019 CAA, with interception machine Greg Liggs Jr. and aggressive pass-rushing presence Marcus Willoughby gone. The Phoenix are not without established defenders, however.
Linebackers Devonte Chandler and Jamir Malone both have a knack for getting into the backfield and Tre’Von Jones is more than capable of adding some new shots to the Get The Ball Wall.
With the unusual circumstances precipitating this season, young members of the Phoenix roster should also see opportunities. Three-star 2020 signee Jaidyn Denis is a freshman to watch, while first-year contributors in the 2019 season like defensive end Marvin Pearson could build on a promising debut.
In wins during the 2019 campaign, Elon averaged 36.4 points per game compared to 15.7 in losses. Finding consistency on that side of the ball from week-to-week is imperative for the Phoenix — and the good news is that a veteran corps makes up the first string in 2021.
Quarterback Davis Cheek was lost for the remainder of the spring to a foot injury just days before Elon’s opener. He will again be replaced by redshirt sophomore Joey Baughman, who appeared in nine of Elon’s 11 games last season.
Baughman, who has primarily been used as a runner by Folmar and Trisciani, will now be expected to effectively balance the passing distribution, with six different targets leading in receiving yards over the course of last season. Explosive Kortez Weeks and reliable possession receiver Avery Jones both return, as well as multi-dimensional running back Jaylan Thomas. Elon also welcomes in a pair of receivers with Power Five experience, Corey Bell Jr. (North Carolina) and Jordan Bonner.
At the end of last spring’s practice season, Trisciani had high praise for the progress of the offensive line.
Skyler Davis provided the final, lasting image of the 2019 season...
...and one of the best viral moments of the offseason.
Davis went 10-of-15 in 2019 and connected on a 50-yarder. Punter Hunter Stephenson, meanwhile, booted 16 punts inside the 20-yard line and averaged almost 42 yards per attempt.
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