Cheek, Cignetti headline Elon postseason CAA Football honorees
The recognitions come as Elon prepares for a first-round contest against Furman University in the university's second-ever NCAA Division I Football Championship appearance.
Led by CAA Football Offensive Rookie of the Year Davis Cheek and CAA Football Coach of the Year Curt Cignetti, a total of eight members of the Elon University football team were honored with postseason league honors on Tuesday, Nov. 21. Also picking up honors were linebacker Warren Messer, offensive linemen CJ Toogood and Ikenna Nwokeji, running back Malcolm Summers, wide receiver Kortez Weeks and safety Chris Blair.
The honors for the coach and players come as Elon prepares to take on Furman University in Rhodes Stadium in the first round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship on Saturday. More information about that game can be found here.
Cheek is the first Elon football player to win a freshman or rookie of the year award since quarterback Scott Riddle did so in the Southern Conference in 2007. Cignetti is the program's first coach of the year since Pete Lembo in that same season. Messer was a first team all-conference pick, while Summers and Toogood picked up second team accolades. Nwokeji, Weeks and Blair were all third team honorees.
Cheek, a native of Matthews, N.C., currently leads CAA Football and is 26th nationally in with 13.43 yards per completion. He also ranks 36th nationally with a 137.7 passer efficiency mark and 36th with 2,230 passing yards. Among FCS freshmen, Cheek rates third in passing yards, second in passing efficiency, tied for fourth in passing touchdowns (14), fourth in passing yards per game (202.7), fourth in yards per completion and seventh in points responsible for (96).
Twice this season Cheek has been selected as the CAA Football Rookie of the Week and he was named the STATS FCS National Freshman of the Week on Oct. 23. He also earned one conference offensive player of the week award.
Cheek, who has started all 11 games for the Phoenix, has thrown for 300 or more yards three times this year, including a high of 357 yards in a league victory at #13 Villanova. He has had three games in which he tossed three touchdown passes and has led the maroon and gold to three fourth-quarter comebacks. On the year, he has completed 166 of his 280 passes. Cheek has also run for two touchdowns.
In his first year at Elon, Cignetti has guided a tremendous turnaround for the Phoenix program. Under his leadership, the maroon and gold posted a six-win improvement over the 2016 campaign as the Phoenix concluded the regular season with an 8-3 overall record. After being picked to finish 11th in the 12-team CAA Football league, Elon placed third with a 6-2 conference record.
Messer, who hails from Garner, N.C., is currently second in CAA Football and rates 28th nationally with 9.4 tackles per game. During the regular season, Messer posted 103 total tackles, including 10.0 for a loss and 5.5 sacks. He intercepted two passes and broke up three others, while forcing one fumble. He also posted a team-best six quarterback hurries.
Messer posted 10 or more tackles in each of Elon's first five games this year, including a career-best 15 tackles in a league win at #6 Richmond. He has six total double-digit tackle performances on the year. In the Phoenix's victory over William & Mary, the junior had eight tackles, which included a sack for a safety. His interception at Rhode Island sealed a one-point victory for Elon. In a victory at #13 Villanova, Messer finished with five total tackles, including 3.0 for a loss and a pair of sacks.
Summers was limited to just six games due to injury, but was the nation's leading rusher at that time. The Mebane, N.C., native carried the ball 134 times for 755 yards and four touchdowns and added six receptions for 38 yards and a score. The 2017 CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree earned league offensive player of the week honors after rushing for 294 yards on 40 carries in a win at #6 Richmond. The junior's 294 rushing yards in that outing are tied for the second most in Elon history and are the 10th most in the history of the league. Summers also posted 100-plus yard performance in wins over #16 Charleston Southern (178 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries) and #19 Albany (171 yards on 39 carries). He scored a pair of rushing touchdowns and rushed for 81 yards in a victory over William & Mary.
Toogood, a junior who hails from Holly Springs, N.C., and Nwokeji, a senior from Randolph, Massachusetts, helped the Phoenix run for 1,819 yards and score 13 rushing touchdowns. Elon's rushing attack concluded the regular season ranked fourth in the conference and 50th nationally with 165.5 rushing yards per game. The offensive line group helped the Phoenix to rank fourth in the league with just 21 sacks allowed.
Weeks led the Phoenix with 53 receptions and 676 receiving yards as a true freshman. The Mt. Ulla, N.C., native became the first Elon receiver since 2012 to have back-to-back 100-yard receiving games after posting highs of 11 catches for 205 yards in a win at #13 Villanova and nine grabs for 139 yards in a victory over Towson. Following the win at Villanova, Weeks was recognized as the CAA Football Rookie of the Week.
Blair, who hails from Winston-Salem, N.C., is second on the team with 81 total tackles. He has added 4.5 tackles for loss and recorded the first two sacks of his career during the 2017 campaign. The senior became the 10th player in program history to reach 300 career tackles with an eight-stop performance in a win at #6 Richmond. He currently ranks seventh in program history with 348 career tackles.