Opponent: Elon Phoenix
Time: 7 P.M.
Location: BB&T Field (Capacity: 31,500)
Head Coach: Rich Skrosky (2nd season; 1-11 overall)
Series History: 9-0-1 (last meeting in 2009)
2014 Record: 1-11, (0-8 CAA; no FCS playoffs)
Elon's first experience transitioning into the CAA from the Southern Conference got off to a rocky start in 2014, as the team failed to win a single conference game and bested Charlotte 17-10 to avoid finishing the year with a winless overall record. Despite the tough knocks in a season where the Phoenix lost eight games by double digits, Elon can find some consolation in the difficult schedule they faced as five of their twelve games were against top 25 opponents in the FCS. In their lone game against an FBS opponent, the season opener against Duke, things did not go too well for the Phoenix either (I'm sensing a theme here) as they fell 52-13 and allowed the Blue Devils to gain nearly 600 yards of offense.
Head Coach Rich Skrosky enters his second season with the Phoenix and will be looking to return Elon to the FCS playoffs for only the second time in school history (the other occurring in 2009). Skrosky faces a tough task though as Elon appears to be somewhat overmatched in the CAA - a conference well-regarded across the FCS for being a relative powerhouse over the past decade. Skrosky previously coached at Ball State under head coach Pete Lembo as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator before returning to Elon where both he and Lembo were previously on the coaching staff.
As usual for FCS opponents, I will provide a caveat for this article that the amount of information out there about Elon football is minimal. If anyone reading this knows about players not mentioned who will have a meaningful impact in the 2015 season, please let us know in the comments below. The omission was more likely than not unintentional and we would like to provide as much accurate information to the readers as possible regarding the 2015 opponents. So without any further ado, let's take a look at what we can expect from the Elon Phoenix in the 2015 season opener.
This one will kickoff on Thursday night under the lights of BB&T Field as the Deacs look to get to 1-0 early in the season and build towards a six-win season which would secure bowl eligibility. In order to reach the six win threshold there is no question that Wake can ill-afford a loss to an FCS opponent and quite frankly this game is one which Wake should never lose. While Elon will look to bounce back from a 1-11 2014 record, things look to be somewhat bleak on offense for the Phoenix.
It does not appear that Elon has a single quarterback on the roster who has attempted a pass for the university. Indeed the two quarterbacks who appeared in a game last year (primarily Mike Quinn who appeared in every game) are no longer on the team - Quinn graduated and John Loughery transferred. This leaves the Phoenix with four quarterbacks, all freshmen, who will look to take over the starting position. These four guys include Daniel Thompson, Connor Christiansen, Conor Hughes, and Graham Pruette, the latter three of which each redshirted last season. Based on some videos and media work from the Elon website, the most focus during the spring on a quarterback appeared to be on Christiansen, a redshirt freshman from Fishers, Indiana, who may have an inside track on locking down the starting gig.
In the backfield with whoever ultimately becomes the starting gunslinger will be senior Tracey Coppedge, who appeared in every game last year rushing the ball 182 times for 663 yards and one touchdown. Also returning is backup running back B.J. Bennett who was second on the team in rushing with 292 yards on 59 attempts, but Bennett only appeared in four games throughout the season. Perhaps the rushing attack can be shored up a bit by the addition of redshirt freshman Nick Theos from Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, who will look to have some playing time after transferring following a redshirt year at the Naval Academy.
The quarterbacks will be looking for some help on the receiving end of their passes, but may encounter some troubles as Elon returns only one of their top three receivers after losing Andre Davis and Kierre Brown. Junior Demitri Allison may be a likely number one target as he caught 55 balls last year for 525 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Their depth was similarly impacted in the offseason as Justin Osborne, another receiver who appeared in 9 games last year recording 26 catches, was kicked off the team for a violation of team rules.
Shifting the focus to defense, Elon returns three of its top five tacklers from a season ago but did lose overall leading tackler Jonathan Spain to graduation. John Silas will look to anchor the linebacking corps coming off a season where he recorded 100 tackles, seven for loss, and two sacks. Similarly Chris Blair, a rising sophomore from Winston-Salem, NC who played high school football at East Forsyth before going to Ball State for a year and transferring after a redshirt season, will be the main guy in the secondary for the Phoenix alongside Julius Moore who led the team in interceptions a season ago with four. Blair recorded 98 tackles on the season, good enough for second on the squad overall, and chipped in one interception.
Punter David Petroni returns for his junior season after booting the ball 81 times for an average of just over 38 yards last season and there is no reason to believe he won't be the guy this season who is called in on fourth down. Similarly, kicker John Gallagher returns for his junior season a year after going 15-26 on field goals with a long of 49 yards on the year. Gallagher also provides kickoffs, putting seven balls into the end zone for touchbacks compared with only one ball put out of bounds on the season.
Generally speaking Wake hardly has games where they absolutely should win, hands down, no questions asked but quite frankly this appears to be one of them. Elon, coming off a 1-11 season with no quarterback on the roster who has attempted a pass at the collegiate level, will likely struggle in their opener and Wake will have the opportunity to get some good reps in to get the season started. It is for this reason that I personally am a huge proponent of scheduling the FCS game as the first one of the season as it gives your team time to get the kinks worked out and ease in a little bit to the season. Wake doesn't want to take things easy in the least going into this one to make sure they are able to put it away early and get in some good practice, but I don't foresee the Phoenix presenting too much of a challenge for the 2015 edition of our Demon Deacons.
My way too early prediction:
As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or comments let us know in the section below or shoot one of us an email. As I mentioned above, if you're an Elon fan or have specific insight into the Phoenix program let us know and we will be more than happy to add in some fun facts about the program into the article. The college football season isn't just around the corner, but we're getting pretty damn close guys. As always - go Deacs!