Utah announced today that they have hired their new running backs coach to replace Dennis Erickson, who retired earlier this offseason. They named Kiel McDonald the new running backs coach. McDonald coached running backs last season at Eastern Washington University, coaching with new Utah offensive coordinator Troy Taylor. He is the third Eastern Washington coach to get hired by a Pac-12 program this offseason, along with Taylor and Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin, who is now the offensive coordinator at Cal.
McDonald, who is 33 years old, played for and was a graduate assistant for Erickson at Idaho and Arizona State respectively. I like this move for several reasons. McDonald is young and will likely bring some great energy. He has ties to Erickson, who did a ton for the program is his short time at Utah. This move also further illustrates that this is Taylor’s offense, and they are bringing in coaches to help him run it. He knows Taylor’s offense and will help get it installed.
Below is the complete press release from the University of Utah on McDonald’s hiring:
SALT LAKE CITY—A month after hiring Troy Taylor as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham went back to Eastern Washington for another assistant. Kiel (pronounced Kyle) McDonald is Utah’s new running backs after five years in the same position at EWU, where he was also the co-special teams coordinator.
“We are excited to welcome Kiel to our staff,” said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. “His experience working with Troy (Taylor) last year at Eastern Washington will be a great asset in helping us install the new offense.”
“I am very excited about the opportunity offered to me by Coach Whittingham to coach at the University of Utah,” said McDonald. “The program is rich in tradition, especially at the running back position. Year in and year out, Utah has great running backs. I am looking forward to working with Troy Taylor again and the rest of the Utah coaching staff in trying to win a Pac-12 Championship.”
The 33-year-old McDonald has playing and coaching ties to recently retired Ute assistant head coach and running backs coach Dennis Erickson. McDonald played for Erickson at Idaho in 2006 and later served as a graduate assistant offensive quality control coach for Erickson at Arizona State in 2011.
The following season, McDonald accepted a full-time position coaching the running backs at Eastern Washington. While EWU is best known for its passing attack (the Eagles averaged an FCS-best 401.0 passing yards per game in 2016), McDonald quickly shored up its run game. The Eagles averaged just 79.0 rushing yards per game the year prior to McDonald’s hiring—a figure he increased to 183.7 yards per game in just his second season. Even with the leading passer in the FCS last season, the 2016 Eagles averaged 128.6 rushing yards per game.
After inheriting a position that averaged 3.0 yards per rush in 2011, EWU’s average improved to 5.3 yards per carry by 2013—the school’s best figure in a dozen seasons. In 2014, McDonald coached senior Quincy Forte to second team All-Big Sky Conference honors when he rushed for 910 yards and nine touchdowns. In 2015, three underclass running backs combined to average 4.9 yards per carry. Eastern’s rushers averaged 4.1 yards per rush in 2016.
Before his season at Arizona State, McDonald interned with the San Francisco 49ers in 2010. He also coached the defensive backs and was the strength coach for San Jose City College in 2010.
McDonald’s collegiate playing career began at Sacramento City College, where he was an honorable mention All-NorCal Conference cornerback as a sophomore. He transferred to Sacramento State, where he played in 2005, before graduating with honors (Cum Laude) in the spring of 2006. He then chose to finish his career at Idaho under Erickson, tallying 31 tackles (two for loss), an interception and five pass breakups in 2006.