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Elon prepares for football opener at Vanderbilt

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Elon’s offense is going to have new components and certainly different twists when its football season begins Saturday night.

Yet even with an award-winning quarterback moving on, the fresh look could be considered a bonus for the Phoenix heading into a new season.

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This will be Tony Trisciani’s fourth season as head coach, and more pieces appear to be in place than in the past.

“We’re pretty confident and ready to go,” said Torrence Williams, a defensive lineman in his sixth year in the program out of Williams High School. “I don’t think I’m going to see anything I haven’t seen before.”

Elon, which opens at Vanderbilt, is coming off a 6-5 season, winning five of its last seven games. The two defeats in that stretch came to foes ranked in the Top 10 of the Football Championship Subdivision.

“A lot of work has gone in since last November to now,” Trisciani said. “A lot of growth and development as a program which is what we’re counting on.”

Trisciani isn’t expected to reveal a starting quarterback until game day, but the competition has primarily centered on Matthew McKay, who’s a past starter at North Carolina State and Montana State, and Joey Baughman, who started two games in the 2021 spring season before an injury that also kept him out last fall.

McKay was in the FCS playoffs last year for Montana State before joining the Phoenix last winter.

“Matt has played a lot of football,” Trisciani said. “He has been around some real good coaching. He picked up our offense really quickly.”

Receiver Jackson Parham said Elon’s offense has new elements, something that he views as a benefit.


“Having two running quarterbacks really helps us to be a different offense,” he said. “You learn new things, run new plays. It makes us better players overall.”

Davis Cheek racked up stellar passing numbers and numerous Colonial Athletic Association hours during his Elon career as a four-year starter before spending time in offseason camp with the Carolina Panthers. Naturally, the offensive scheme for the Phoenix this season will be tailored to the current personnel.

“It will look a little different,” Trisciani said. “But to play quarterback in our offensive system, you have to be able to throw the ball. You have to be a quarterback who can run. You can’t be a runner who can throw.”

So that will lead to designed quarterback runs that weren’t used with Davis. Baughman was part of certain goal line packages in Elon’s offense in recent seasons.

Jalen Hampton, a transfer from Virginia Tech, is pegged as a starting running back. While he could make a noticeable impact in his collegiate debut, other areas of the offense encourage the coaching staff.

“We probably have more depth than we’ve had at a lot of positions right now,” Trisciani said. “We’ve got a more mature and experienced offensive line than we’ve had.”

Getting off to a better start is a priority for the Phoenix. It won’t be easy against a Vanderbilt team that opened the season last Saturday with a 65-10 romp past host Hawaii.

“We have a lot of seniors,” Parham said. “We’re excited to play hard and compete. I think we’re a more disciplined team.”

Photos: courtesy of Elon University Athletics

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