When the Elon University football team took to the practice field Saturday afternoon, there was a hint of rustiness as the start of fall classes loomed ahead.
But first-year head coach Curt Cignetti wasn’t using it as an excuse.
Plenty of yelling and up-downs ensued and the young 2017 Phoenix team was back on its usual pace set under a new coach.
Following a disappointing 2016 campaign and the departure of former coach Rich Skrosky, Elon begins a new era this season. New coaches, new quarterbacks, even a new logo on the helmet will all make their debut at 7 p.m. Thursday against The University of Toledo With the youth present on the roster, Cignetti understands that the team is a work in progress. But that hasn’t stopped his daily expectations of improving from the last practice.
“I’m really confident that we’ll improve daily and weekly and become a much more competitive team,” Cignetti said. “We’re just focused in on doing things better every day and I see progress. I think the staff has done a great job developing these guys.”
In the spring Cignetti set an early tone that some fans were able to see firsthand.
Midway through the team’s spring scrimmage, the new head coach summoned his players to take a knee. After berating them for their effort, the team ran 20 40-yard sprints.
It’s all part of a new mentality emphasizing toughness and pushing players past their comfort zones. For those unfamiliar with him, the new Phoenix coach is known to have quite the pedigree.
He coached at the University of Alabama from 2007-2010 under legendary head coach Nick Saban. There, he specialized on the offensive side of the ball — specifically wide receivers that included National Football League and Atlanta Falcon superstar Julio Jones.
Seven years later, Cignetti is now revitalizing an Elon offense which averaged only 11.3 points per game last season.The offensive facelift will include two new players at quarterback. Last year it was juniors Connor Christensen and Daniel Thompson. This year it will be freshmen Davis Cheek and Jalen Greene.
A starter between the two has yet to be announced as Cignetti said both will split reps against Toledo.
But the young guns will have some experience behind them in the backfield.
One of those faces in the backfield is last year’s leading rusher sophomore De’Sean McNair. The tailback says he’s been impressed with what they the new coaching…