Observations, notes and news from Central Michigan's third preseason camp
Practice no longer takes place at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
There was no music, just focus and a high level of intensity as the Central Michigan football team suited up Monday at the Bennett Track Grass Field for the third day of preseason camp.
If the team isn't practicing at the Bennett Track Field, the Chippewas will find themselves preparing for the season at the East Grass Field or Indoor Athletic Complex.
The point is that first-year coach Jim McElwain doesn't want his team practicing on the main field because, well, that might take away from the experience of getting just six game opportunities to perform at Kelly/Shorts during 2019.
"It’s an honor and privilege to play on that field, so that’s why," said senior linebacker Michael Oliver.
Players and coaches reported Thursday, entered team meetings Friday and had the first official practice Saturday. But Monday marked new beginnings, too, particularly with allowing media to attend the first five periods of practice.
Here's what I saw on Monday, the third day of camp:
– The five periods consisted of, in order: Fundamentals, stretching, individual drills, team drills and, once again, individual drills. Media watched for roughly 30 minutes. Everything moved extremely fast, and there wasn't much break time for the players. The intensity with every move is how McElwain has had the team practicing during spring and fall camps – much different than when former coach John Bonamego was in town. “He brings a different type of energy, a different type of level of competitiveness and a different type of level of professionalism," Oliver said. "We just have to compete at each level.”
– There was also no music. The only noise heard were helmets smashing, players talking each other up and coaches barking out commands. It was all business from McElwain and the new regime. "Coach has come in and wants us to have nothing but focus and communication on the field," said wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton. "That’s why there’s no music."
– For those wondering, graduate transfer quarterback Quinten Dormady took reps with the first-team offense, which included running back Jonathan Ward, wide receivers JaCorey Sullivan, Tyrone Scott and Pimpleton, tight end Tony Poljan and offensive linemen Clay Walderzak, Luke Goedeke, Derek Smith, Oge Udeogu and Jeff Strome. Those were the players working with Dormady and the first squad on the field in the only 11-on-11 situation accessible to the media. Oakley Lavallii was the first fullback to take the field a little later on. Pimpleton spoke on the offense, stating he has full trust in McElwain and offensive coordinator Charlie Frye. "With coach Mac and coach Frye out there, they do a nice job of getting the right guys in there and mixing up personnel so we have the right guys in there to make plays," the slot receiver said.
– Of the current first-team offense, Pimpleton said he's been impressed with Scott, who caught one pass for five yards in the 2018 season finale against Toledo. "With Tyrone stepping in being a sophomore, he’s got a big role to take on," Pimpleton said. "He’s done a good job of locking in during practice and the film room. He’s a very athletic guy.” The speedster also mentioned redshirt freshman Keontra Nixon as receiver rising on the depth chart. From the perspective of a skill position player evaluating the offensive line in comparison to a season ago, Pimpleton has only been impressed by the improvement. "We’ve had a lot of good guys on the offensive line come in and do their thing," he added.
– Led by safeties Da'Quaun Jamison and Devonni Reed, the first-team defense also involved cornerbacks Brandon Brown and Darius Bracy, linebackers Michael Oliver, Troy Brown and Andrew Ward, defensive ends Amir Siddiq and Sean Adesanya and defensive tackles Robi Stuart and LaQuan Johnson. Oliver, a senior linebacker, named Brown as a player from the first-team defense that he's been impressed with, along with saying Ward will be a "great player" for the Chippewas this year.
– When junior quarterback David Moore took the field immediately after Dormady exited, he was with running back Kumehnnu Gwilly, tight end Bernhard Raimann, receiver/tight end Javon Gantt, walk-on freshman receiver Adam Jones and freshmen offensive linemen Deiyantei Powell-Woods and Danny Motowski. With young players like Gantt and Jones getting reps, Pimpleton said it's been helpful having senior receiver Cameron Cole and sophomore Mark Patritto to help in leadership roles. "I feel like those two have done a great job," Pimpleton said.
– It was interesting that McElwain threw in receivers and linemen that currently aren't expected by fans to play much in the 2019 season. However, since Moore is likely to take over next season, it makes sense that the first-year coach wanted to get the young studs some reps in the offense with the JUCO transfer quarterback. Take that as you will.
– The defensive group that faced Moore's squad involved safeties Gage Kreski, Willie Reid, Brian Edwards (recent Florida transfer), cornerbacks Montrae Braswell and Demarcus Governor (true freshman, early enrollee), linebackers Troy Hairston and Justin Whiteside (true freshman) and defensive linemen Braeden Childress, Jacques Bristol (true freshman), Darrick Gibson and NeVen Simington. Helping the younger players grow on defense, Oliver has high hopes for the future, but he knows it takes a special type of work ethic. "Everyone on the defensive side," he said, "we are just going to keep competing and getting better.”
– Walk-on quarterback Ben Maleszyk has moved to a wide receiver and tight end role for the Chippewas. He was unlikely to see the field, sitting behind every signal caller on the roster. Maleszyk is the second quarterback to move positions, as Austin Hergott made the switch to tight end before spring practice. “He helps us a lot," Pimpleton said of Maleszyk. "Sometimes, he’s the quarterback in our drills, and he’s a great receiver. He’s working at it.”
– Edwards, the safety transfer from Florida, is wearing No. 4 for the Chippewas. His status as an NCAA transfer is still unknown.
– Like McElwain has mentioned on multiple occasions, defensive end Deron Irving-Bey will not be able to report to the team until the first day of classes (Aug. 26). “Irving-Bey is still working on getting back into school," McElwain said July 23 at MAC Media Day. "He is doing everything he can, so we will know first day of classes.”
– Pimpleton spent a majority of his time during position workouts demonstrating each drill with wide receivers coach Kevin Barbay. Before any other Chippewa went, Pimpleton did it at half speed, then he led the group going all out. For him, it's a sign of leadership. "There’s no added pressure. Not to boost myself, but I feel like I’ve always been a leader type," he said.
– During offensive drills, Ward went from working with the running backs to joining Pimpleton and the wide receivers to catch passes. Back in 2017, he had 48 receptions for 709 yards and three touchdowns. Last year, it was just eight catches for 41 yards. Ward's proven to be a passing threat out of the backfield when used correctly.