Spring practice insight: Dormady, Pimpleton highlight boost in offensive production
It might only be spring football, but it's already clear there is a difference with the Central Michigan football offense.
It's going nowhere but up from where it was a season ago.
Throughout the open spring practice at Kelly/Shorts Stadium on April 13, there were a lot of plays made from new faces the program has yet to see.
Here's some observations on what the CMU offense could look like in the 2019 campaign.
Quinten Dormady shines, other QBs show potential
From the minute he started taking warmups, it was evident that Quinten Dormady can change what the program didn't have a season ago.
Someone who can throw the football with zip and efficiency.
Dormady was accurate when doing scrimmage-type drills no matter what offensive personnel he was working with. In the pocket, on the run, or throwing the ball deep down the field, the Houston graduate transfer showed why he was a four-star prospect coming out of Boerne High School and a starter at Tennessee.
Taking all of the tight ends and receivers into account, it already appears like he's gelling well with the entire offense. He ran drills with what appeared to be the starting offense, and that shouldn't change.
Head coach Jim McElwain said Dormady, along with the rest of the quarterbacks, has done well to this point, and they are still "ironing out" who will be the starter.
"(Dormady) is looking good, so are the other guys," McElwain said. "It's fun to see him progress as far as learning kind of what we want to do, and it was good to see those guys move the team today."
While McElwain didn't comment on the order of the quarterbacks, senior Tommy Lazzaro and Garden City Community College transfer David Moore took a hefty load of reps during the scrimmage portion of the practice.
Lazzaro looked solid with his feet, making big plays and scoring plenty of times. Through the air, however, he appeared to be a little off on some of his deeper balls and quick routes. Moore is pretty comparable in that same aspect.
A season ago, Lazzaro played in seven games. He completed 68-of-141 (48.2 percent) of his passes for 711 yards, five touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Redshirt freshman George Pearson and true freshman Daniel Richardson took plenty of reps as well. McElwain confirmed that, like junior Tony Poljan, sophomore quarterback Austin Hergott has officially made the switch from quarterback to tight end.
Brandon Childress appears to be fully healthy, Kalil Pimpleton as advertised
After a season-ending injury in 2017, senior wideout Brandon Childress didn't have the 2018 season he was expected to have.
Childress had 15 receptions for 155 yards and no touchdowns in 12 games. In just two games during 2017, the Baldwin native had five receptions for 42 yards and a score.
He appeared to be the No. 1 target the entire day for Dormady, and you would've thought the two had been playing together since their freshman season. The two hooked up for multiple big plays during the scrimmage, one specifically resulting for a score.
"He's starting to grow up a little bit," McElwain said of Childress. "We've had a lot of guys in this program starting to realize it isn't about them, it's about their teammates and what they can do to help the Chippewas be good and win a championship.
"A couple of those troubled position groups have grown up and it's good to see that."
Another player who stuck out in the wide receiver group was Virginia Tech transfer Kalil Pimpleton, mainly because you couldn't miss him.
At 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, the sophomore from Muskegon sat out the 2018 season due to NCAA transfer requirements. In his first live action in front of CMU fans, he blew past defenders and made plays with his elusive speed and pass-catching ability.
McElwain said he is already on his "get it to board" and will touch the ball often in 2019.
"He's an electric player but not only that, he's an unbelievable teammate," McElwain said. "He's a guy that invests in it and really does a great job. He's the first guy in all of the time.
"If you could have 110 of him, you'd have a great football team."
Fellow Muskegon native JaCorey Sullivan also showed a lot of great ability on the field, making multiple receptions with all of the quarterbacks throwing to him.
Coming off a season where he made 18 catches for 153 yards and pair of scores in 12 contests, Sullivan said he can feel his role changing within the offense.
"(McElwain) just told us to work hard and attack the day everyday," Sullivan said. "We just come in each day and do what we need to do and as you see in the long run it will all just take care of itself."
Jonathan Ward shows flashes of 2017 season
McElwain kept it very simple and short when he was asked about how he would evaluate the performance of senior running back Jonathan Ward at the spring practice.
"He's a pretty good football player," McElwain said. "I'm glad he's a Chippewa."
With nagging injuries limiting the star in the 2018 campaign, he appeared to be a full-go with the offense during scrimmages and drills. He showed his ability to get up-field quickly and made a lot of would-be tacklers miss.
After having a standout sophomore year where he rushed for 1,019 yards and 10 touchdowns as well as 48 receptions for 490 yards and three scores, Ward slumped as a junior.
He only compiled 212 yards and a single touchdown in nine games. He looks to be himself and appears to be the leader in the backfield for the Chippewas in 2019, once again.
Senior Romello Ross and junior Kumehnnu Gwilly also took plenty of reps with all of the offenses and shouls still play a role in the running game this season.
While rising freshman Lew Nichols was talked up by McElwain earlier this week, sophomore tailback Kobe Lewis was also seen getting a lot of chances with the first and second team.
Tony Poljan might be the team's best TE
Quarterback clearly wasn't the position junior tight end Tony Poljan was supposed to play.
After having a rough start to the 2018 season as the starter at quarterback, Poljan has appeared to fit very nicely as a tight end. He had a nice touchdown and a few solid receptions throughout the scrimmage.
Coming in at 6-foot-7, 235 pounds, Poljan started to play a lot more tight end towards the end of the year. He hauled snagged seven balls for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
Outside of Hergott switching to the position being a headline, sophomore Bernhard Raimann got plenty of time with the potential first and second team offenses. The Chippewas appeared to be running a lot of two-tight end sets, when a season ago there wasn't much of that under former coach John Bonamego.
McElwain said it was more of a product of the current numbers they have on the roster.
"The next thing we do this offseason is really sit down and see who the get it too's are," McElwain said. "We just want to get the best 11 (players) on the field."