Elon’s Cignetti named CAA Coach of the Year; QB Cheek top league freshman

Junior linebacker Warren Messer earned first-team all-CAA recognition after a season in which the Phoenix improved by six wins

Freshman quarterback Davis Cheek completed 166 of 280 passes for 2,230 yards and 14 touchdowns to rank third among FCS rookies in passing yards (ElonPhoenix.com photo)

  Elon’s Curt Cignetti, who inherited a program that won only two games last season and led it an 8-3 record, a No. 15 national ranking and a spot in the FCS playoffs, was named Tuesday as the Colonial Athletic Association’s Coach of the Year.

  In addition, Phoenix quarterback Davis Cheek was named the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year while junior linebacker Warren Messer earned first-team all-CAA recognition.

  Cignetti, one of 18 finalists for the Eddie Robinson Award as the nation’s top FCS coach, produced one of the nation’s best turnarounds in any division this season. Elon was picked to finish 11th in the CAA, but ended up going 6-2 in conference play while earning more wins than the Phoenix had earned in the three previous seasons combined.

  One of the big reasons for that improvement, which led to only the second postseason berth in school history, was the play of quarterback Cheek.

  A freshman from Butler High School in Matthews, Cheek completed 166 of 280 passes for 2,230 yards and 14 touchdowns to rank third among FCS rookies in passing yards, second in pass efficiency and fourth in passing touchdowns. He is among 20 finalists for the Jerry Rice Award, presented to the FCS Freshman of the Year.

  Joining Messer on the All-CAA team were second-team selections Malcolm Summers, a junior running back from Mebane and C.J. Toogood, a junior offensive lineman from Holly Springs, and third-team picks Kortez Weeks, a freshman wide receiver from Mt. Ulla, Ikenna Nwokeji, an offensive lineman from Randolph, Mass., and Chris Blair, a senior safety from Winston-Salem.

  Other CAA award winners include Richmond senior quarterback Kyle Lauletta as Offensive Player of the Year, James Madison senior defensive lineman Andrew Ankrah as the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.. JMU senior wide receiver/returner John Miller as Special Teams Player of the Year, Elon and Delaware freshman linebacker Colby Reeder as Defensive Rookie of the Year.

  The CAA football’s all-conference teams and awards were voted on by the league’s 12 head coaches.