ELON, N.C. -- With temperatures hovering around 90 degrees, the Elon Phoenix football team officially began its preparations for the 2012 season that gets underway at 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 1 in Chapel Hill, N.C., when the maroon and gold took to the Hunt and Tucker practice fields for the first time on Sunday afternoon.
Prior to the team's first practice, the squad elected an offensive and defensive captain for the season. The coaching staff then selected a special teams captain. The three captains for the 2012 season will be senior linebacker Blake Thompson, senior wide receiver Jeremy Peterson and senior kicker Adam Shreiner. The team will vote on a fourth captain for each game as the season progresses.
Thompson, who served as a team captain in 2011, finished second on the team with 60 total tackles from his safety position as a junior. He had seven tackles for a loss, one sack, two interceptions and recovered one fumble. Thompson notched a career-best 13 tackles in a win over The Citadel and had 11 tackles and returned an interception 47 yards in a win at Western Carolina.
"Blake is a returning captain," said head coach Jason Swepson. "I was thrilled that the team voted him back in as captain this year. It just shows that he did a great job as a captain last year."
Peterson was tied for second on the team with 39 receptions and was second on the squad with 333 receiving yards in 2011. He made a career-high nine catches for a personal-best 88 yards in a win over The Citadel while also posting nine catches for 79 yards and one touchdown against Chattanooga.
Noted Swepson, "I wasn't really surprised by Jeremy's selection. Here is a kid who didn't miss a summer work out the last two years. I think he's going to be a tremendous leader for us."
Shreiner made 10 of his 15 field goal attempts and was a perfect 33-for-33 on PATs during his junior campaign. He was second on the team with 63 points. Shreiner connected on a career-long field goal of 50 yards at Samford and earned SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week honors after making four field goals, including a 33-yarder in OT, in a win over The Citadel.
"We decided as a staff that we needed a special teams captain as well," said Swepson. "Adam's done wonderful things over his career. I think his leg will give us an opportunity to win two or three games this year. He is ready to be a leader."
The day began with some individual and group drills and continued with specialized offensive and defensive workouts before the team did some full group programs.
The Phoenix roster features 41 players who have not been through a preseason camp at Elon prior to this year. Among them is a group of running backs. Swepson, who has a history as a running backs coach, has taken it upon himself to take a few periods of each practice to work personally with the running backs during position drills. "It felt good to get out there and get 15 minutes of work with the running backs," said Swepson.
Day one of the second preseason under Swepson went smoothly. The head coach stated, "We reported to camp with the full number of 95, where last year I believe we had 83. They players knew the routine and tempo of practice coming in to today. Last year everyone was trying to please - the players were trying to please us and we as coaches were trying to please them. Everyone fit right in today. To see, especially the running backs, go through the practice without a hiccup was remarkable. That means they were studying all summer and preparing the right way."
Once again Swepson will be residing in the dorm with the freshmen during camp. "I'm excited to get back in the dorm room," he said. "This is my favorite time of the year. I'm excited to get around the freshman class and bond with those guys."
Numerous players returned for camp in great shape and had noticeably been working out. Said Swepson, "Our upperclassmen made a commitment this summer. We had a tremendous contribution from them to the summer program. When Coach (Eric) Cash arrived last winter, he just changed the whole attitude in the weight room. We've added a supplement program with chocolate milk, Muscle Milk and protein bars. These kids feel like they're getting the best of everything."
The Phoenix will work out in just shorts, jerseys and helmets again at 3:40 on Monday before donning uppers on Tuesday afternoon. The first two-a-day will be on Friday.