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Sophomore wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton makes circus catch, continues to grow


Central Michigan wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton falls over a Northern Illinois defender and steals a catch Nov. 2 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. 

The most impressive play of Kalil Pimpleton's career came Saturday afternoon.

He lined up out wide and began to run what appeared to be a crossing vertical route. Senior graduate transfer quarterback Quinten Dormady's pass hit him in the hands and deflected right into the hands of a Northern Illinois defender.

However, the falling defender couldn't corral it, and Pimpleton soared back into the play, securing the ball and a first down for the Chippewas.

"Anytime you put anything together, the goal is to put the ball in your playmakers' hands," said first-year coach Jim McElwain. "We're real glad he's on our team."  

It's just a testament to the effect that Pimpleton has on his new squad. 

His energy and skill-set have helped to inject life into a surging offense that puts up points at a phenomenal clip. Central Michigan posted 615 yards of offense in Saturday afternoon's 48-10 victory over Northern Illinois – the most since hanging 607 yards on Western Kentucky in a 49-48 loss in the 2014 Bahamas Bowl.

Pimpleton has burst onto the scene at Central Michigan. He's growing into more of a threat each week.

After spending a season at Virginia Tech, he transferred to join the Chippewas in Mount Pleasant. He spent last season on the sidelines due to NCAA transfer rules but has become an instant playmaker in his first year under McElwain.

When asked about last season, the words that came out of his mouth to summarize it were simple yet impactful.

"Last year was tough," said Pimpleton, who didn't want to add much else.

During spring camp this past season, Pimpleton was finally able to become integrated within the offense, and he wasted no time asserting himself. McElwain raved about his new addition and the endless possibilities that came with putting him in the lineup. 

"He's an electric player but not only that, he's an unbelievable teammate," McElwain said of Pimpleton. "If you could have 110 of him, you'd have a great football team." 

Last season's leading receiver, Julian Hicks, entered the transfer portal in April, and soon after it was announced that senior receiver Brandon Childress's career was ended by a second ACL tear. Those two losses paved the way for Pimpleton's increased role.

In the season opener against Albany, McElwain and offensive coordinator Charlie Frye wasted no time getting him involved – touches early and often. 

Pimpleton caught eight passes for 40 yards, one of which was a 4-yard touchdown pass from Dormady. The score was the first of Pimpleton's career. 

It was just a simple pistol set with Dormady in the shotgun with senior running back Jonathan Ward lined up behind him. Pimpleton came from left to right in motion, and with Albany in man coverage, nobody could get to the speed receiver before he could catch the ball and stride into the end zone.

Pimpleton ran to the corner of the end zone and raised his hands to the sky. 

"I really couldn't wait to get on the field with my brothers again," said Pimpleton after the 38-21 victory over the Great Danes. "That touchdown catch didn't feel real." 

Central Michigan wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton gestures for a first down against Northern Illinois Nov. 2 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. 

Since that season opener, Pimpleton has become the focal point of the passing game. His speed and versatility have paid dividends in igniting the offense that struggled so mightily a season ago. 

To this point, Pimpleton leads the conference in receiving by over 100 yards with 653 and is also top in catches per game with 6.2. 

He continues to add new dimensions with his various talents. In addition to the 62 catches, he has five carries for 42 yards and is 1 of 2 passing for 28 yards. 

"I like to see those bigger nickel backs," Pimpleton said when asked what he prefers to match up against. "Those kinda taller, heavier guys that give me an easier day, not so much blocking, but getting open in the pass game."

"I like getting in there and blocking those bigger guys too," he adds.

Against Northern Illinois, Pimpleton had five catches for 50 yards in the triumph. He caught a 14-yard score from Dormady on a wheel route out of the backfield to open the scoring, and also threw a pass intended for junior receiver JaCorey Sullivan that would've gone for big yards had Sullivan not slipped on his route. 

His touchdown came on the Chippewas' opening drive. 

"We got him in man, (Dormady) made the right read and got the ball to him in a hurry," McElwain said of the play. "He made a guy miss, which is something he's really good at." 

Central Michigan's biggest test will be its next one, as the team travels to Ball State to take on the current MAC West Division leader. 

If Pimpleton can have his desired effect on the game, it will give his team a great opportunity to take the next step in year one of the McElwain era.

Being just a sophomore, one can just imagine the effect he'll have as he continues to grow.

"I'm glad to be back this year with my teammates," Pimpleton said. "I've had people count me out, but I don't pay no mind to it. I do what I do."