Going into the game this past week, it was announced that the ceremonial number 21 jersey, which has been rotating around the CMU roster to commemorate fallen teammate Derrick Nash, would be going to Jesse Kroll. Kroll was certainly an inevitable choice to wear the jersey, as he has averaged 13.5 yards per reception and scored twice in the conference season thus far.
The receiver from small-town Algoma, Wisc. has a big chip on his shoulder this season, having to replace the incomparable Titus Davis, who was the first player to have at least eight touchdowns in each of his four seasons in FBS history with 3,700 yards and 37 touchdowns. over his career.
In the past three seasons, Kroll has been more of a possession-type receiver, and has done well in that role, accumulating 582 yards and four touchdowns in 2014. Kroll has shown a lot of potential for big play ability, with a career average of 16.0 yards per catch, as well as a knack for being sneaky athletic. Kroll played a key part in the infamous Bahamas Bowl Hail Mary (he was the targeted player and pitched it first), and made some incredibly gifted plays that kept CMU in contention while Davis was injured last season.
Jesse Kroll certainly made #21 proud on Saturday against Buffalo, as the senior receiver had seven receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown, averaging 19 yards per catch. It was a career day for Jesse Kroll, who had not gotten over 100 yards since the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl back in December.
In the game, Kroll tied a career high in receptions (7), created a new career mark in receiving yards (133), and gained the second highest yards per reception average in a game with multiple receptions tallied in his career(19.0). Kroll burned whichever corner was put on him and helped Central Michigan open up the running game on a Buffalo defense that up to that point, had only given up 20.8 points and nine running touchdowns. CMU would score three rushing touchdowns, and four passing touchdowns, while scoring 51 points. Kroll played a huge part in opening up that playbook for the offense.
Coach John Bonamego and offensive coordinator have done wonders in creating an offense that emphasizes speed and vision, utilizing a lot of screens and vertical routes. That has certainly been a boon for Kroll’s development as a primary receier, since it plays into his skill set perfectly. Kroll has a fantastic ability to make room off the defender in the first step off the line to get hands on the ball, a feature that other receivers (such as youngsters Anthony Rice, Mark Chapman, and Corey Willis) have yet to perfect to shrewd efficiency. Kroll also has sure hands and is almost always a lock to catch a timing pass thrown in his direction, as seen here.
Kroll has emerged as the steadiest receiving option in an offense that has shown no fear in spreading the ball around. Thus far, the Chippewas have 14 players with at least two receptions, and six players in the double digits
for receptions. Kroll is the leader of the receiving corps, already surpassing last year’s total numbers (36 rec., 582 yards, four touchdowns) just seven games into the season. Currently, he has 39 receptions for 522 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 74.4 yards per game, with 11 more receptions and 188 more yards than the second-highest receiver (Ben McCord).
If Kroll can sustain this momentum from the Buffalo game and tally good numbers over the rest of the conference season, Central Michigan could see its first MAC title game since 2009, when Dan LeFevour was throwing passes to Antonio Brown.
The schedule will be a tough one, as the Chippewas host a potentially nationally-ranked Toledo and go on the road to play a defensively-minded Kent State squad that is better than their record indicates. However, there will be plenty of opportunities for Kroll and the rest of the Chips to showcase their talent, as CMU will be on national TV three times in the final four weeks.
Their next game will be against the Ball State Cardinals on October 17th in Muncie, IN.