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Elon picked fifth in CAA preseason football poll

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Elon has been in the upper level of the Coastal Athletic Association football standings the past couple of years. Taking another step is the next goal.

“We’ve proved that we can contend for a CAA championship,” coach Tony Trisciani said Tuesday during the CAA’s virtual media day. “Our goal is to push this program forward to where we can win a CAA championship.”

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Elon head football coach Tony Trisciani

The 2022 season ended with an 8-4 record and a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. The Phoenix tied for third place in the CAA last year – hindered by a pair of road defeats – and was alone in third in 2021.

“Learning from those losses,” senior safety Bo Sanders said. “Really just keep plugging at it and go get it. It’s there for us.”

Practice starts Tuesday. Elon opens the season August 31 with a non-league game at Wake Forest, while the home opener is September 16 vs. North Carolina A&T.

“We’re a highly motivated football team here again,” Trisciani said. “Our guys have put in a tremendous amount of work over the last eight months. We’re anxious to get going next week.”

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Elon’s likely quarterback will be redshirt freshman Will Lankford or transfer Matthew Downing, who has made stops at Georgia, Texas Christian, and Louisiana Tech. Running back Jalen Hampton rushed for 1,053 yards last year and four starting offensive linemen are back.

“There’s some experience around the quarterback,” Trisciani said. “We’ll be breaking in a new quarterback this year. If you’re going to break in a new quarterback, you want to have that support around him.”

The Phoenix had notable departures from its defense with 2022 seniors and exits via transfers to Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Not all was lost.

Trisciani said the defense should be boosted by the return of safety Dylan Tucker, who missed all of last season with an injury after starting in eight games in 2021. Plus, Nick Veloz was a part-time starter two years ago before missing all except four games last season.
There could be no shortage of impact players.

“It’s all over our defense,” Trisciani said of the potential for breakout seasons.

Sanders said younger players are looking like key contributors on defense.

“If I was to list people that have impressed me, we’d be here all day,” he said.

In the CAA …
Elon is picked to finish fifth among 15 teams in the CAA in preseason voting by the league’s coaches.

William & Mary was selected as the preseason favorite with 13 of the 15 first-place votes. New Hampshire was second, Richmond third, and Delaware fourth. New Hampshire and Delaware received the other first-place votes.

CAA football newcomers North Carolina A&T and Campbell were selected 10th and 12th, respectively.

“It’s the SEC of the FCS football, that’s what excites me,” Campbell coach Mike Minter said Tuesday. “The national exposure that the CAA gives its teams.”

Elon had three players on the CAA preseason all-conference team. They are Sanders, sophomore tight end Johncarlos Miller II, and junior special teams whiz Chandler Brayboy. Hampton and offensive lineman Jabril Williams were honorable mentions.

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