ELON, N.C. – New Elon University football coach Curt Cignetti has announced his staff of 10 assistant coaches. Cignetti has retained two members from the previous staff and will welcome in eight new coaches.
Remaining with the Phoenix will be tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Cris Reisert and offensive line coach Damian Wroblewski. Both have been at Elon for the last three seasons.
The new additions to Cignetti’s staff include assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Tony Trisciani and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Drew Folmar. Also coming aboard on the offensive side of the ball will be running backs coach and special teams coordinator Matt Merritt and wide receivers coach Mike Shanahan. The defense will add linebackers coach Bryant Haines, defensive line coach Jerrick Hall, assistant defensive line coach Dillon Lucas and defensive backs coach Ryan Smith.
On Wroblewski and Reisert, Cignetti said, “The offensive line is a very critical position on a football team. The quarterback is the number one guy on the team, no questions asked, but when you look at what unit is the most important unit, it’s the offensive line. The offensive line can control and dictate the tempo of the game. Damian Wroblewski — Robo — he’s been a lot of places. I had a lot of people I knew reach out to me on his behalf, and I had a very good feeling about him the first time I met him, and in every conversation, I was more and more convinced that we needed to have him on the new team moving forward, and I’m really excited about that.
“I did keep Cris Reisert, the tight ends [coach] and recruiting coordinator. He had all the information for recruiting. I’ve been a recruiting coordinator so I understand the position he’s in. He’s a really smart young coach, he’s got a great future, and he’ll help us going forward.”
Tony Trisciani – Assistant Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator
Making a return to the Elon coaching staff, Trisciani spent the last five years on the staff at fellow CAA Football member Villanova University.
At Villanova, Trisciani served as the Wildcats’ secondary coach and recruiting coordinator. In his five seasons with the program, 10 of Trisciani’s players earned all-conference accolades.
In 2016, Villanova led the nation in total defense and CAA Football in rushing defense and scoring defense. The Wildcats intercepted 10 passes and were third in the league in turnover margin.
Prior to arriving at Villanova, Trisciani was the head coach at Whitehall High School in Whitehall, Pa. During his time at Whitehall, he led his team to three Eastern Conference 4A playoff appearances, including the 2009 Eastern Conference championship. In 2010, Trisciani led the Zephyrs to the district championship game with a 10-3 record.
Trisciani also has a wealth of college coaching experience. Prior to his stint at Whitehall, he coached defensive backs and was the special teams coordinator at Elon in 2006. He spent the 2005 season as the linebackers coach at Lehigh.
Before his season at Lehigh, Trisciani spent four seasons in CAA Football as the defensive backs coach at New Hampshire where he guided three players to All-CAA honors. He was also responsible for the punt return unit and return specialists during his time at New Hampshire. This was Trisciani’s second stint at UNH. He also was the restricted earnings running backs coach from 1998-2000. During that time, he coached two future NFL performers in Jerry Azumah and Dan Kreider.
He has also had coaching stops at Alfred University and Springfield College.
As a player, Trisciani was a four-year starter and two-year captain at Springfield where he was the 1992 New England Rookie of the Year and the 1995 Springfield College Athlete of the Year and team MVP. He earned a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation services in 1996 from Springfield and he pursued a master’s in health studies from Springfield from 1996-98.
Cignetti on Trisciani: “I think, on a coaching staff, just like a successful football team, everyone has a role, and everyone has to excel within their role. When you start looking at a coaching staff, there are some critical hires. I’m an offensive coach — I have been involved with the offense through the years and I will continue to be involved with the offense, so my defensive coordinator hire was very critical to me. Tony Trisciani came very highly recommended from people I knew and trusted, and when I reached out to more people I knew and trusted, I heard nothing but great things. Tony comes from Villanova, they were No. 1 in the country on defense, and I liked my conversations and pulled the trigger, and Tony’s doing a great job. He happened to coach at Elon a year, but that wasn’t a prerequisite.”
Drew Folmar – Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks
Folmar comes to Elon following three seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Lehigh University.
Folmar’s offense put up 483.8 yards per game, ranking sixth nationally in total offense in 2016. Lehigh averaged 38.8 points per game to rate ninth nationally as the program finished the 2016 season ranked as high as 18th in the national polls. The Mountain Hawks also ranked in the top 10 in passing efficiency (fifth), passing offense (sixth) and third down conversion percentage (sixth).
Lehigh posted a 9-3 overall record, including an undefeated mark in Patriot League action, in 2016. The program earned an automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs. The 2016 Lehigh offense produced one All-American, the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year and seven all-conference honorees.
Folmar directed the Patriot League’s top-ranked offense in 2015 as the Mountain Hawks featured a balanced attack that averaged 462.5 yards per game. The team boasted the second-ranked rushing offense in the conference and freshman Dominick Bragalone became Lehigh’s first freshman 1,000-yard rusher. The team rushed for more than 200 yards six times.
Prior to coming to Lehigh, Folmar spent the 2013 season as the head football coach at Kutztown University and spent the previous five seasons molding the Golden Bears’ offense into one of the top units in Division II.
In five seasons, Folmar directed Kutztown’s offense and coached its quarterbacks. He mentored a total of 16 All-PSAC East performers and two PSAC East Offensive Players of the Year. His student-athletes also excelled in the classroom as he coached one Capital One CoSIDA Academic All-American, two Academic All-District selections and 15 PSAC Scholar-Athletes.
When he arrived at Kutztown following the 2008 season, Folmar took over a unit that ranked 96th in scoring and 86th in total offense and molded it into one of the top offensive attacks in Division II. In three seasons from 2010-2012 Folmar’s offense never ranked lower than 12th in the nation in scoring offense.
Folmar’s offense helped Kutztown to a then-school record 10 wins and the school’s first ever Division II playoff berth in 2010. The following year the Golden Bears captured their first PSAC championship and won a playoff game for the first time. Kutztown finished with 11 victories and earned its highest ranking in school history, peaking at No. 6 in the AFCA Poll.
In 2012 Kutztown established a new school single-season scoring record for the third straight year, finishing with 490 points. The Golden Bear offense ranked fourth in scoring, sixth in passing offense and tenth in total offense.
Individually, Folmar played a major role in the development of quarterback Kevin Morton, who was twice named the PSAC East Offensive Player of the Year and was a two-time regional finalist for the Division II Player of the Year Award, the Harlon Hill Trophy.
Folmar has also made coaching stops at Millersville University (2001, 2003-07), the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (2002) and the University of New Haven (2008).
In his playing days, Folmar was a standout quarterback at Millersville University from 1997-2000. A four-time All-PSAC East selection, three-time team MVP and two-time team captain, Folmar set numerous single season and career records for the Marauders and was a regional finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy in 2000. Millersville won 30 games during his career, including a 20-4 mark in PSAC East play, and reached the second round of the NCAA Playoffs in 1999. Folmar was inducted into the Millersville Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013. He graduated in 2001 with a degree in elementary education and a minor in athletic coaching.
Cignetti on Folmar: “The offensive coordinator position, Drew Folmar, Lehigh in the Patriot League, they won the league and the quarterback was the player of the year in the conference. I got rave reviews from people I knew and trusted, was extremely impressed with our conversations. Drew knows my philosophy, I understand his. We’re going to create an offense here that works around our people. We have a direction that we’d like to go, but we’ll assess our talent and then pick the best lane, and he’ll do a great job here for us also.”
Matt Merritt – Running Backs / Special Teams Coordinator
Merritt joins the Phoenix staff following one season as the running backs coach at Ohio Dominican University.
In 2016, ODU rushed for 1,398 yards and 16 scores as four different players ran for at least 260 yards. Merritt coached one all-league honoree.
Prior to his stint at ODU, Merritt was the assistant running backs coach and offensive graduate assistant at Ohio State University since 2013. During Merritt’s time at OSU, the Buckeyes won the 2015 national championship, the 2016 Fiesta Bowl and a Big Ten championship. They also made an appearance in the 2014 Orange Bowl.
Merritt helped coach wide receivers, running backs, special teams and the defensive scout team during his time at Ohio State. He played a role in the development of Ezekiel Elliott and Braxton Miller while with the Buckeyes, in addition to coaching Carlos Hyde and Curtis Samuel.
Before heading to Ohio State, Merritt spent two years as the running backs coach at St. Charles Preparatory, where he also coached special teams. He also spent a year and a half as an assistant coach at Capital University, where he played running back and wide receiver.
During his playing career, Merritt had 542 rushing yards as Capital qualified for the playoffs in 2007. He tallied 1,099 career rushing yards and 12 touchdowns and helped Capital make a pair of Division III playoff appearances.
Merritt earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Capital before picking up master’s degrees in sport management from Ohio State and coaching education from Ohio University.
Cignetti on Merritt: “I’ve added Matt Merritt as the running backs coach and special teams coordinator. Matt was at Ohio State for three years and Ohio Dominican this past year. He had three or four years of coaching experience prior to Ohio State, so he’ll do a great job here.”
Mike Shanahan – Wide Receivers
Shanahan comes to Elon following a one-year stint as the wider receivers coach on Cignetti’s staff at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP).
In his lone season at IUP, Shanahan helped receiver Walt Pegues to second-team all-conference honors. Pegues rated 11th at the NCAA Division II level with 94.1 receiving yards per game. The Crimson Hawks’ offense averaged 209.8 yards per game receiving in 2016 as the team finished with a 10-2 overall record. IUP ended the 2016 season ranked 12th in the nation and advanced to the second round of the NCAA playoffs.
Prior to his time with IUP, Shanahan spent two seasons at the University of Pittsburgh. At Pitt, Shanahan worked mainly with the wide receivers, helping NFL prospect Tyler Boyd garner first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors with 91 receptions for 926 yards and six touchdowns in 2015. The Panthers went 8-5 and earned a berth in the Military Bowl that year.
Shanahan also saw time coaching alongside offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jim Chaney during spring practice as he transitioned from a volunteer coach in 2014 to the offensive graduate assistant.
Shanahan graduated from Pitt in 2012 after four years on the gridiron where his 159 receptions and 2,276 yards both rank in the top 10 in school history. A four-year letterman and two-time team captain, Shanahan earned second-team All-Big East honors in 2012 after catching 62 passes for 983 yards and six touchdowns in helping the Panthers to a BBVA Compass Bowl appearance.
He was also a four-time All-Big East Academic Team selection and was the recipient of Pitt’s annual Senior of Distinction Award.
After graduation, Shanahan had stints as a member of the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ preseason squads. He was also a member of the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League as a wide receiver and tight end.
Shanahan earned Associated Press first team Class AAAA All-State honors as a high school senior.
Shanahan earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Pitt as he studied history as an undergrad and social studies education as a grad student.
Cignetti on Shanahan: “Mike Shanahan was my receivers coach at IUP. He was one of the all-time leading receivers at the University of Pittsburgh. He’s a great young coaching prospect —he’ll coach in the NFL someday.”
Bryant Haines – Linebackers
Haines joined the Elon football staff following a one-year stint as the linebackers coach with the Aggies of UC Davis.
In 2016, Haines helped Nas Anesi to second-team All-Big Sky accolades.
Haines directed the defensive line at IUP for two seasons, helping the Crimson Hawks lead the Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference in scoring defense, total defense, third-down defense and red-zone defense in 2015. IUP was fourth among all NCAA Division II teams in rushing yards allowed in 2014 and was 13th in 2015.
Following coaching assignments at Manchester University and Adrian College, Haines moved to the Big 10 where he helped coach linebackers at Indiana University in 2012. He followed that with a memorable coaching stint at Ohio State University where he worked with the linebackers during the Buckeyes’ undefeated 12-0 season in 2013.
As a player at Ball State University, Haines was one of the nation’s top linebackers, earning College Football News Freshman All-America second-team honors in 2005 and later being named to the Dick Butkus Award Watch List for the nation’s top linebacker as a senior in 2008, when he was also named All-Mid-American Conference.
Haines graduated from Ball State in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in general studies.
Cignetti on Haines: “Bryant Haines, our linebackers coach, was at Ohio State for a couple years, coached with me for a couple years, then left for an FCS school. I was fortunate enough to be able to bring him back, he’s got a great coaching future as well.”
Jerrick Hall – Defensive Line
Hall returns to the Elon program after serving the last two seasons as the defensive line coach at Fordham University.
As Fordham’s defensive line coach, Hall helped the Rams lead the Patriot League and rank 10th nationally in both turnovers gained and fumbles recovered in 2015. In 2016, Fordham rated sixth nationally in passing efficiency defense and seventh in turnover margin. He coached one All-Patriot League honoree in 2016.
Hall spent the 2014 season at the University of New Haven where he helped guide the Chargers to a 6-3 Northeast 10 conference mark as the team ranked 28th in NCAA Division II, in sacks per game and fourth in tackles for loss per game. New Haven was also 18th in the NCAA Division II in rushing yards allowed per game.
Prior to his year in New Haven, Hall spent four seasons at Elon. He coached and developed an All-Southern Conference defensive tackle and all-freshman team defensive end in 2010. In 2011, Hall mentored a defensive line that amassed 141 total tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. With a young line in 2012, Hall’s unit amassed 6.5 of Elon’s 16 sacks.
From 2007-2010, Hall helped coach Campbell University’s defensive unit. During that stretch, the 2009 squad tallied 50 tackles for loss including 12 sacks. Three of the 2008 squad’s defensive linemen ranked among the top-25 linemen in the league in tackles per game.
Prior to joining the Fighting Camels, Hall spent four seasons coaching at his alma mater, North Carolina State, where he was responsible for defensive film breakdown, scouting reports, coaching the offensive scout team and working with the defensive line. During his tenure, Hall worked with four first-round NFL draft picks, including Mario Williams – the first overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.
A 2004 graduate of North Carolina State, Hall was a four-year letter winner for the Wolfpack as a defensive tackle and helped the program to three bowl game appearances, including a win over Notre Dame in 2002 Toyota Gator Bowl. He earned a bachelor’s degree in park recreation and tourism management from the school in 2004 and completed his master’s degree in liberal studies in 2007.
Cignetti on Hall: “I’m excited about Jerrick Hall, our defensive line coach. He was a player at NC State when I coached at NC State. Jerrick’s always got a smile on his face, he’s very professional, he’s smart and he’s got a great relationship with the players. He’s a great coach. He’s always been on my list. He was sleeping on his office floor at Fordham. His family was back in Zebulon. But it still wasn’t an easy get.”
Dillon Lucas – Assistant Defensive Line
Dillon Lucas joined the Elon staff in 2017 as the Phoenix’s assistant defensive line coach. Lucas was the linebackers coach at Moravian College in 2016.
In 2016, Lucas coached one third-team All-South Region and All-Centennial Conference selection.
Lucas was a standout linebacker at fellow CAA Football member Villanova where he was the 2011 CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year and a third-team all-conference pick. A finalist for the 2011 Jerry Rice Award, Lucas helped the Wildcats to a pair of FCS Playoff appearances.
Lucas graduated from Villanova with a degree in communications in 2015.
Cignetti on Lucas: “Dillon had a great career at Villanova. He knows the defense we are installing inside and out. He will be a tremendous asset to Tony Trisciani.”
Ryan Smith – Defensive Backs
Smith comes to Elon after two seasons as a defensive graduate assistant at Penn State University.
At Penn State, Smith helped the Nittany Lions to an 11-3 overall record and a Big Ten championship in 2015. The team also earned a berth in the 2017 Rose Bowl. Penn State’s defense picked off 10 passes and broke up 60 more in 2015.
Prior to heading to Penn State, Smith served as a defensive graduate assistant at the University of Texas at San Antonio for one season.
A 2014 graduate of the College of William & Mary, Smith helped the Tribe to a 2009 FCS semifinals appearance. As a senior, Smith tallied 47 tackles, one sack and one interception as a cornerback. Smith was a two-time CAA Academic All-Conference honoree. He earned his bachelor’s degree in process management and consulting.
Cignetti on Smith: “Ryan comes highly recommended from Penn State. He is bright, energetic and has a great future in the profession.”