Central Michigan preview: Newcomers Kalil Pimpleton, Quinten Dormady set to connect

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Kalil Pimpleton

Mount Pleasant – Kalil Pimpleton is feeling the same type of excitement that he did when he stepped on Ford Field to play in the state championship game for Muskegon on Thanksgiving weekend back in 2016, the year he earned a spot on The Detroit News Dream Team.

Things didn’t go as planned for Pimpleton at Virginia Tech, so he transferred to Central Michigan, sitting out last season.

Now it’s time for Pimpleton to play again and show his talent, something he has waited a long time to do at the next level.

“It was real tough to sit out from the game I love, but it helped me a lot to where I got bigger, faster and stronger,” said Pimpleton, who accounted for 2,855 all-purpose yards and 43 TDs as a senior at Muskegon. “It opened up my eyes. I’m real humbled to play this year, so I’m ready to get going.

“This will be my first time really playing since that championship game my senior year in high school, so words can’t explain this. Since I’ve had to sit, there’s not a day that’s gone by without me thinking about this day, so I’m beyond excited.”

The Chippewas finished 1-11 last season, averaging just 15 points while going winless (0-8) in MAC play for the first time in program history, costing John Bonamego his job.

Pimpleton believes Central Michigan can make a big turnaround. Quinten Dormady, a transfer from Tennessee and Houston, should stabilize the quarterback position, and former 1,000-yard rusher Jonathan Ward is healthy again.

CMU first-year head coach Jim McElwain is thrilled to have Pimpleton as a playmaker and plans to get him the ball in multiple situations, including as a punt returner.

Quinten Dormady

“He’s an Energizer Bunny that I look forward to every day when he sticks his head in my office and gives me that smile and asks me how I’m doing,” said McElwain of Pimpleton. “He’s a guy who can elevate a team, not only when the ball is in his hands, but just on an everyday basis, affecting the people around him on the way you want it done.

“He’s a guy that needs touches. He’ll do some returning for us, as well. Anytime you can increase, without overuse, the amount of times he touches it, he gives us a chance to make a guy miss and make some real explosive plays.”

McElwain said Pimpleton’s chemistry with Dormady has been excellent.

“As the season wears on we’re going to put him in different positions so teams can’t just lock on where he’s at and put a man and a half on him,” McElwain said of Pimpleton. “We’re going to have to do a good job of putting him in multiple spots to where he gets a chance to get some one-on-ones.”

Dormady was a four-star pro style quarterback coming out of high school in Texas, picking Tennessee over Alabama and other Power Five powers. In his first career start, he completed 20-of-37 for 221 yards and a pair of TDs in Tennessee’s 42-41 double-OT win over Georgia Tech, followed by a 13-of-18 performance for 194 yards and two TDs in a 42-7 win over Indiana State.

Then, he threw for 259 yards and a TD, but turned the ball over three times in a 26-20 loss to Florida, then coached by McElwain.

Dormady started to struggle and lost his starting job following a lopsided loss to Georgia in Week 5, ultimately resulting in him first transferring to Houston and finally finding himself in Mount Pleasant, re-united with McElwain, who recruited him out of high school.

Dormady is looking forward to playing for McElwain and working with Pimpleton and Ward.

“It’s a lot different than any other system I’ve been in,” Dormady said. “There’s a lot on our plate, but it’s been a lot of fun. They’ve (McElwain, offensive coordinator Charlie Frye) done a great job of coaching us up at the quarterback position to be the best we can this year.

“If you put a label on it, I’m a guy who will sit in the pocket and try to get it to the playmakers, make the best decisions I can to make us successful. I think we’ll be explosive; we have a lot of playmakers and I’ll do what I can to get them the ball as quick as I can and let then make plays.”

As for playing with Pimpleton, Dormady said, “KP is high-energy, comes to work every day. Over the spring, through the summer and in fall camp we’ve grown a lot. There’s that relationship there that I think he trusts me, and I trust him to make the right reads out there. He’ll be a guy that we’ll try to get the ball to and watch him do what he does.”

CMU fans will get the opportunity to see Pimpleton and Dormady for the first time Thursday night when the Chippewas host Albany. They will need to get on the same page in a hurry with a Week 2 game at Wisconsin.

Central Michigan

Coach: Jim McElwain, first year at CMU, 44-28 overall (22-16 at Colorado State, 22-12 at Florida)

Outlook: the Chippewas have an opportunity to make the nation’s biggest turnaround after suffering through a 1-11 record which cost John Bonamego his job last year. Former four-star quarterback Quinten Dormady will run the offense and have multiple playmakers to work with, including Virginia Tech transfer Kalil Pimpleton, Jacory Sullivan and 6-7, 240-pound tight end Tony Poljan, one of CMU’s quarterbacks last year. Jonathan Ward is healthy after an injury-plagued junior year where he was limited to 76 carries and 255 yards following his 1,019-yard season in 2017. Defensive back Devonni Reed (Belleville, 97 tackles) leads the defense.