Sunday, May 19, 2024

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Elon ends spring football work upbeat, pleased with progress

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Aided by a seasoned roster at many positions, the spring practice period for the Elon football team turned out quite productive.

That left coach Tony Trisciani and players largely upbeat after Saturday’s final spring scrimmage at Rhodes Stadium.

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“It has been highly competitive. Competing with each other, not against each other,” Trisciani said. “We got a lot of good film. We got a good amount of snaps (Saturday).”

The Phoenix, which is coming off a 6-5 season, had numerous encouraging sequences from both the offensive and defensive units.

Experience helps in that regard. Linebacker Brandon Tyson, who’ll be a redshirt sophomore in the fall, was in his third spring with the Elon team after arriving as an early enrollee in 2022.

Brandon Tyson

“Playing faster and not thinking as much,” Tyson said of the benefits. “It definitely plays a role in being able to play faster and having more confidence in myself.”

The defense forced several punts during the workout. The offense had highlights as well.

Onuma Dieke caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Downing and Zimere Winston scored on a 3-yard shovel pass from Jack Salopek. Jack Berkowitz kicked field goals from 46 and 43 yards, the latter bouncing in off the right upright. He later came up short from 54 yards.

Onuma Dieke
Matthew Downing
Zimere Winston
Jack Salopek
Jack Berkowitz

Downing, a multi-time transfer, didn’t join the program until a summer session last year, so being around for extensive offseason work was a bonus.

“I thought it was a great spring ball for us,” Downing said. “I think we’ve been super competitive, which is the best part. Defense making plays, offense making plays. Making each other better. I think we’ve taken a bunch of steps in the right direction and it’s a great momentum going into the summer.”

Dowing completed seven of 10 passes for 80 yards. Salopak, a transfer from Western Michigan, was 11-for-19 for 164 yards.

The downside for the offense came when quarterback Will Lankford was injured while losing a fumble on his first series of the scrimmage. He didn’t return to the action, but Trisciani said there didn’t appear to be any major injuries during the event.

Will Lankford

The defense’s big moments came with strong pass rushes and Anthony Martin’s interception.

Jeff Yurk, who wasn’t with the program last year, has returned to a punting role he held in 2022.

Jeff Yurk

“We can check the box on improving our positional skill set,” Trisciani said. “We have some new schemes and adjustments to our schemes on both sides of the ball. … A lot of competition for spots on the depth chart. Competition to be a starter. Competition to be a back-up. Competition to be on the bus.”

Those were ideal developments for the team, the coach said.

“There was a lot of growth here in the program,” Trisciani said. “Everyone is focused on pushing the program forward.”

Elon opens the season August 30 with a non-conference game at Duke.

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