Philadelphia, PA – When first-year head coach Jason Swepson arrived at Elon, wide receiver Aaron Mellette was worried he might not touch the ball as much this season.
"Aaron was actually the first player to come up to me when I got the job," Swepson said. "He had heard, and was worried, that I was a triple-option guy."
"It's something any player would have done. I wanted to know the offense," Mellette said. "But, I was just thinking, 'Man if we're going to be in the option, I better be a quarterback or something.'"
Fortunately for Mellette, his new coach runs the spread, so he didn't have to worry about moving to quarterback.
It's worked out well for Elon. Mellette is leading the FCS with 36 receptions after three weeks of action.
For a receiver who led the Phoenix with 86 catches, 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, this season has gone just as smooth since quarterback Thomas Wilson replaced Scott Riddle without the struggles you'd expect from a first-year starter.
It would seem to the outside observer that replacing Riddle would have been, well, a riddle for the Phoenix. The recently departed quarterback set 41 NCAA, Southern Conference and school records, including the conference's mark for all-time passing yardage (13,264).
However, Swepson was confident that he had a reliable quarterback, even before he accepted the job at Elon.
"I've known Thomas Wilson for a couple years now," Swepson said. "He came to the North Carolina State camp and he was almost offered to go there ... I was surprised when he committed to Elon, he's a guy with ACC or Big East talent."
That talent Swepson talked about has already been on display for Elon, as the junior quarterback has completed 71.6 percent of his passes for 850 yards and seven touchdowns.
While there are high expectations from his new coach, Wilson has benefited from the coaching change when it comes to replacing Riddle.
"I think the coaching change really helped him in that aspect," Swepson said. "I'm not ever telling him, 'This is how Scott did it' or 'Scott liked this,' ... in a way it makes it easier."
While confidence from the coaching staff has given Wilson confidence in the huddle, it doesn't hurt when he has an All-America talent lining up at wide receiver.
"Me and Aaron came in together as freshman and we've worked well together the past three years," Wilson said. "He's a reliable receiver and he's usually the first or second read on a play."
It's not just his quarterback who looks his way often, as Swepson tries everything in his power schematically to get Mellette involved, having the receiver line up at every receiving position except tight end.
North Carolina Central felt the pain that the quarterback-receiver tandem is capable, as Wilson and Mellette connected 16 times for 237 yards and a 65-yard touchdown last weekend.
Even more important than the second-quarter touchdown connection was the game- winning drive, as Wilson looked Mellette's way on three straight passes before finding an open Christian Dennis for a 27-yard, game-winning touchdown.
"I do want the ball (when the game is on the line)," Mellette said. "But, if I'm able to draw an extra defender or be a decoy, then that's cool since I'm still doing my part on the play."
Decoy or target, Mellette could be tested this weekend against The Citadel. The Bulldogs have only allowed 133 passing yards per game, but have still allowed opponents to complete an impressive 71 percent of their passes.
While the defensive match-up with The Citadel is hard to judge, the two offensive units will certainly be a clash of styles as the Bulldogs - who are second in the nation in rushing yards (319 ypg) - run the triple option, the very same offense Mellette was worried Swepson would introduce to the Phoenix.
No matter which system the opponent runs, the Phoenix are looking to improve and once again reach the playoffs, something that is difficult in a conference that has four teams in The Sports Network/Fathead Top 25.
"The SoCon is such a tough conference," Wilson said. "There are good teams from top to bottom in this league."
And while he acknowledged the difficult road ahead, Wilson is confident the Phoenix will be able to navigate that schedule, as he and Mellette could challenge Chattanooga's B.J. Coleman and Joel Bradford as the best quarterback-receiver duo in the conference.
Needless to say, everyone at Elon is happy the spread is up and running for the Phoenix.