The Elon University football team announced its 2017 signing class Wednesday, as head coach Curt Cignetti’s first touch on the program brings in 14 players.
Most noticeably, both quarterbacks — Butler’s Davis Cheek and southern Durham’s Jalen Greene — have already enrolled at Elon and started classes Monday. Cignetti felt that it was important to add to the two scholarship quarterbacks Elon already had, sophomores Connor Christiansen and Daniel Thompson.
“Two’s not enough to have on scholarship — you’d like to have four or five,” Cignetti said. “Now we have four, and it’ll make for good competition. I suspect it’ll be a crash course for both of those guys. They’ll have some good days and some tough days, which is natural. But when they come back in fall camp, they’ll be much improved because they’ll have been through it one time.”
Cheek was one of the seven players who committed to former head coach Rich Skrosky’s class that are still coming to Elon under Cignetti, and Cignetti said he was pleased Cheek kept his commitment.
Greene took an unofficial visit to Elon during Cignetti’s first weekend and committed shortly after. The opportunity to enroll early and the fact that many of his high school credits carried over to college factored as big selling points. Cignetti acknowledged that both the new quarterbacks enrolling early is a unique situation.
“It’s kind of unusual to have two freshman quarterbacks enrolled early like this,” Cignetti said. “But we have two quarterbacks with great futures.”
Greene’s visit during Cignetti’s first weekend was supposed to be part of a recruiting weekend, but the winter storm that hit campus that weekend forced Elon to cancel it. While some new staffs may find that to be a hindrance, Cignetti referred to it as a “blessing.”
“It gave us an opportunity to watch our whole current roster on high school Hudl,” Cignetti said. “The previous staff had rated the roster 1-50. We were able to watch their Hudl, and our commitments’ Hudl, and the new guys’ Hudl. It gave us a feel for what was here, what direction we needed to go to try to improve the current roster in the short term, and to see what the standard was on tape.
“If that weekend would’ve happened? I’m not sure … It was probably really good that that weekend was cancelled.”
The Phoenix defensively will be transition to a three-man defensive line, requiring the new staff to quickly look to find players capable of playing noseguard. Elon was able to add two, with defensive linesman Tristen Cox of Piqua, Ohio being the highlight at 6-3, 350 pounds. Cignetti felt grabbing him and fellow Ohio native offensive lineman Michael Purcell was key.
“I think finding the two Ohio guys was big,” Cignetti said. “They’re both big people, and they came down the same weekend, and they look like twins, yet they had never met each other. They were on the airplane looking at each other, and never said a word to each other but were thinking, ‘That guy must be visiting Elon, too.’”
Elon has up to 18 scholarships available for this year’s class, but Cignetti stated that the Phoenix isn’t planning on using all of them, figuring whatever ones remain can be rolled over to next year’s class. There could be another player or two added later in the spring, depending on possible transfers or other if a talented player drops into Elon’s lap.
Considering that Cignetti wasn’t hired until New Year’s Eve and didn’t have a full staff until this past week, the new leader of the Phoenix was thrilled with his staff’s work, with tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Cris Reisert being a key component.
“Cris was a tremendous link in the transition, but all the coaches were so industrious,” Cignetti said. “All throughout the month, we were working morning, noon and night. Through our contacts, finding and evaluating potential prospects, and trying to find people that we thought would fit what we were looking for. I thought our staff did a great job. I thought everyone in the Elon community in the recruiting process did a great job also.”
QB Davis Cheek — 6-2, 185 — Butler (Matthews, N.C.)
QB Jalen Greene — 6-2, 185 — Southern Durham (Durham, N.C.)
RB Jasen Johnson Jr. — 5-11, 228 — Mountain View (Mountain View, Ga.)
WR Kortez Weeks — 6-0, 180 — West Rowan (Mt. Ulla, N.C.)
OL Cooper Cromer — 6-6, 280 — North Lenoir (La Grange, N.C.)
OL Matt Holland — 6-2, 290 — Hilliard (Hilliard, Fla.)
OL Michael Purcell — 6-3, 335 — Centerville (Centerville, Ohio)
K Christian VanSickle — 6-1, 190 — Charlotte Christian (Charlotte, N.C.)
DL Tristen Cox — 6-3, 350 — Piqua (Piqua, Ohio)
DL Destin Flloyd — 6-0, 280 — Havelock (Havelock, N.C.)
DL Torrence Williams — 6-2, 278 — Williams (Burlington, N.C.)
LB Tira Williams — 6-2, 225 — T.L. Hanna (Anderson, S.C.)
DB Jarquez Bizzell — 6-1, 190 — Kinston (Kinston, N.C.)
DB McAllister “Mac” Ingram — 5-11, 190 — Ledford (Thomasville, N.C.)