Players in each position group to watch for during CMU's fall camp

Central Michigan quarterback Quinten Dormady warms up prior to the April 13 spring practice at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

The pads are on, drills are being run and football season is near. 

For the Central Michigan football team, it is the beginning of a new era: The McElwain era.

Saturday marks the first of five practices open to the media as the Chippewas begin fall camp. These times allow media members to get a bit of a closer look into what the team might look like when the season kicks off Aug. 29 against Albany at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. 

To have an idea where to pay the most attention, here is one player in each position group to keep an eye on during the preseason.

Quarterback: Quinten Dormady

There is a looming quarterback competition that first-year coach Jim McElwain will have to settle. Dormady, the senior graduate transfer quarterback from Houston, seemingly has proven to have the skills necessary to take on the starter role. He spent time as the starter at Tennessee, and arguably his best start was against Georgia Tech, where he led the Volunteers to a thrilling 42-41 double-overtime victory. His experience in an SEC offense, similar to what McElwain could run, should play a major factor into him winning the job and excelling this season.

Running back: Jonathan Ward

Ward struggled to produce in 2018. The now-senior was hobbled up with injuries throughout the season as he only made nine appearances. Yardage was down, as well, as he was only able to churn out 253 yards from scrimmage, which was a significant drop off from his impressive 1,494 in 2017. Ward returns to the Chippewa running back room and could look to go on a "revenge tour" of sorts after a rough 2018. Obviously, he would have to share carries with fellow senior Romello Ross and junior Kumehnnu Gwilly, but Ward should take the precedence, and he very well could return to the 1,000 yard rusher from 2017. 

Wide receiver: Kalil Pimpleton 

The sophomore wideout was ineligible last season because of the NCAA transfer rules. He played in five games at Virginia Tech in 2017 but did not provide much offense, running for four yards on one carry. Pimpleton showed out during spring practice and sparked interest as he could play an integral part on the offensive side of the ball. Due to losing veteran Brandon Childress to a career-ending knee injury, guys like sophomore Drayton Law and senior Cameron Cole could step up and create a nice rotation in the wide receiver room. 

Tight end: Tony Poljan

Poljan heads into his junior year playing a position he may be more comfortable with as a tight end. When he was under center for the majority of the 2018 season, he tended to look uncomfortable and just struggled as a whole. However, when he lined up as a tight end, he thrived. The numbers proved it. Poljan caught seven balls for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season. This year, he is an interesting case because he has a full campaign to throw his 6-foot-7, 235-pound frame around to make plays in the passing game.

Offensive line: Steve Eipper

Eipper is an excellent anchor for the Chippewa offensive line. So excellent, the Greenville senior was recently named to the Rimington Trophy watch list. The award recognizes the top center in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), and Eipper's leadership in the trenches could have him as a top candidate to win the award. Eipper played all 12 games in 2017 and missed just one game last year, so his experience on the line and his ability to lead the unit could have CMU thriving.

Defensive line: Sean Adesanya

After transferring from Illinois last season, Adesanya played a huge factor on the defensive line with Mike Danna, who has since graduated transferred to Michigan. He totaled 29 tackles, seven tackles for loss and four sacks in 2018. Adesanya also had a pass breakup, showing he can even stick his hand in the passing game. His return to the line, this year as a leader, surrounds new defensive coordinator Robb Akey. If Adesanya can lead the defensive line, similar to how Danna did, the defense could have another relatively strong season that it did a season ago. 

Linebackers: Troy Brown

The sophomore Brown played in 10 games last season and started once. He made 16 tackles (10 solo, 6 assisted) and forced a fumble. He is a little bit of an unknown, despite the fact that he played so much last year, and that unknown is what makes him intriguing. He is one of the guys tasked with taking the place of Malik Fountain in the strong linebacking core. Brown has the potential to take on the role as a leader on the defensive side of the ball, and if he can unlock that potential, he could be a fantastic guy to fill (at least) part of the void left by Fountain and others.

Secondary: Brandon Brown

Another Brown who had a lot of game experience and will be tasked with filling the void left by an even greater talent. In his case, he is part of a cornerback room that has to replace NFL skill in Sean Bunting and Xavier Crawford. Last season, Brown played in all 12 games and started twice. In those games, Brown made 12 tackles, of which 10 were solo. He also defended a pass and picked one pass off to make him a top-dog of sorts to replace either Bunting or Crawford. Keep in mind, he is just a sophomore and could have three years of starting at cornerback. 

Specialists: Luke Elzinga

This freshman knows how to kick a football. When he puts a foot into the ball, it tends to travel a great distance. As a junior at Grand Rapids Christian High School, he averaged 46 yards per punt and improved that stat the next year as he averaged 48 yards per boot. That average included a 76-yard missile that drew a lot of attention from college coaches. Elzinga also has the ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory and that could be exactly what he needs to do in Mount Pleasant. Jack Sheldon was one of the better punters in recent memory, as some fans called for him to be president because of his skillset. Elzinga seems to be up to the challenge to succeed the "president" of the CMU special teams unit.