Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Pimpleton makes an impression | Ottawa Citizen

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Three highlight reel plays made Khalil Pimpleton the standout of the Ottawa Redblacks first training camp “situational practice” on Saturday.

Nobody was within 10-yards on him when he caught a deep Dru Brown pass and scored a touchdown that covered almost half the field.

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He made a spectacular grab going the other way, adjusting his route and stretching out to beat a defender on an under thrown Brown pass.

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And he returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

Pimpleton would have scored a third TD in the 75-minute scrimmage, but after again splitting the secondary and leaving DBs in his dust, he dropped the ball.

That’s the souvenir the 25-year old rookie out of Central Michigan took to bed with him Saturday night.

“I’ll think about the one I let get away,” said Pimpleton. “That’s what I do …. I come out here and I make plays when they come to me. The one I let get away is the one I worry about.”

That’s natural when you’re pushing for a job at a position where the Redblacks have their most depth.

Among the American receivers are five veterans who have had 1,000-yard seasons in the CFL — Jaelon Acklin, Bralon Addison, DeVonte Dedmon, Justin Hardy and Dominique Rhymes — while Andre Miller and Jon’Vea Johnson are two more U.S. born rookies who have made an impression.

Dedmon gives them an elite deep threat and return specialist, but injuries have limited him to just 24 games over the last four seasons and he’s been sidelined again through the first week of camp.

At 5-foot-7, 175-pounds, Pimpleton is the smallest player in the receivers room.

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But his size wasn’t a hinderance when he was the MAC Special Teams Player of the Year in 2021, and it didn’t prevent the Detroit Lions from taking a good long look at him in 2022 check out the entertaining Hard Knocks clip of him juggling tennis balls (and reluctantly divulging his signing bonus with Lions) during the team’s talent show — or the New York Giants bringing him in for a four-month audition after that.

Is Pimpleton the fastest player on the field at TD Place these days?

“I don’t think so,” he said to a reporter who would debate that. “I may be the quickest, but I don’t know about fastest. Absolutely that’s how I’ve always allowed myself that edge. Obviously I’m not the biggest guy out there, so I have to use my strengths, and my biggest strength is my quickness.”

He also loves being a returner.

“That’s my passion,” said Pimpleton. “My passion is always in a return game when the ball is in my hands. Yeah, that’s my passion. When the ball is in my hands. That’s when I’m at my best.”

Pimpleton’s greatest attribute might just be his football IQ.

“In the meetings he asks questions, and intelligent questions,” said offensive coordinator Tommy Condell. “Even in the first meeting, and it wasn’t just from a receivers standpoint … it was a holistic standpoint from the offence. He’s an intelligent guy, and that makes him able to perform out here in a quick manner.

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“He asks questions, he studies, he’s smart and then he lets his God-given ability take over.”

If nothing else, Pimpleton looks like he would be a great insurance policy on Dedmon.

He reminds one of the hundred or so fans in attendance on Saturday of Diontae Spencer, who had flashes of brilliance with the Redblacks in 2017-18 before moving on to an active roster job with the Denver Broncos.

“Obviously, he’s a dynamic player,” head coach Bob Dyce said of Pimpleton. “He works hard when he’s out there, when he gets the opportunity. Guys with that type of speed are pretty unique, and he knows when to use it. I’m sure as we get into the pre-season games Tommy will find ways to see if we can get the ball in those types of competitive situations.

“I think he’s done a decent job in getting his playbook and being mentally sharp. But you know, what was one thing we have to make sure of is, we’re consistent. We can’t have the explosive, then a drop. It’s not specific to Khalil. It’s us as a team. We’ve all got to be make sure that we’re all more consistent and producing at a high level all the time.”

Having a bonafide deep threat is a luxury Dyce would like to enjoy.

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“You always want to be someone who can really stretch the defence and yeah, you know, with that type of speed that he has exhibited, yeah, that’s something that would be a great fit for our offence,” said the coach. “But at the same time, if we don’t have that type of player, Tommy, will work with the guys that we have, and work to their strengths, because that’s what coaching is all about, right?

“You always love to have that guy who’s going to get vertical and really put pressure on defences because it causes them to adjust and play different defence differently. So if we find that type of guy here, amongst our top guys, yeah, he will certainly be a big part of the offence.”

GOING DEEP

The Redblacks have taken a hit to their defensive line depth and special teams with former Carlton Raven Kene Onyeka suffering an undisclosed injury. “He will be down for a little bit,” said Dyce. “I can’t give you an exact time frame, but yeah, you probably won’t see him out here for a couple to a few weeks.” Onyeka has been placed on the six-game injured list … Two more former Ravens are back on the Redblacks transaction list, as they’ve shuffled things around to again add kicker Michael Domagala, while releasing defensive back Louis Lavaud … In yet more paperwork, yet another former Raven, DB Justin Howell, has been added from the league suspension list, while going on that list is American DB Adrian Frye. “He’ll be coming back,” Dyce said of Frye. “We wanted to let him take care of his personal business.” …Dyce saw things he liked and areas that need improvement on Saturday. He also heard something he loved. “Like I told them on the field, I thought it was great to hear the pads pop and the guys being physical,” he said. “That’s one of the things we really want to rest our heads on, and they did a good job of that. But they also did a good job of taking care of their teammates and not exposing anybody.” … Players have a day off from field work on Sunday before returning to the regular camp routine with practice Monday at 8:30 a.m. Practice remains open to the public.

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dbrennan@postmedia.com

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