Running backs coach Kiel McDonald has left the program to take the same position at USC. With his departure, the Utes will be looking to replace a steady presence on the offensive side of the ball. McDonald was the running backs coach from 2017 through the 2021 season. He has consistently gotten the best out of his backs since he took the job. Since his first season, the team’s average rushing yards per carry has increased year-over-year, as shown in the chart below.
Team Rushing Yards per Carry
|% Increase Over Prior Year||-||9.76%||6.67%||6.25%||9.80%|
McDonald was also a strong recruiter, bringing in several highly coveted recruits (2 4-stars, eight 3-stars) over his five years with the program. McDonald’s departure is significant but not an insurmountable loss. Utah has a strong reputation for its running game. The program’s commitment to the run will always attract good running backs. If Utah can find a good RB coach, the running game shouldn’t miss a beat and continue to improve.
Here are four potential candidates with ties to Utah and Kyle Whittingham who could be a fit to be the next running back coach.
Quinton Ganther played RB for the Utes from 2004-2005. He totaled 1,774 rushing yards in his collegiate career, including a fantastic senior year in which he had 1,120 rushing yards with 5.5 yards per carry. Ganther spent five years in the NFL, seeing limited action before leaving to begin his coaching career. Ganther was a graduate assistant at Utah in 2012. In 2013, as part of the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship, Ganther spent a year with the 2013 Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. He assisted in coaching a running back room which included Marshawn Lynch. Since then, Ganther was the running back coach at Weber State from 2014-2020 before joining Urban Meyer in Jacksonville as the offensive quality control coach. Urban Meyer obviously did not work out at Jacksonville, and Ganther will likely be looking for other opportunities as a result.
When asked about Ganther making the jump to coaching in the NFL, Kyle Whittingham said, “Q was doing a great job at Weber State for several years... He was an outstanding coach for Jay Hill and the wildcats, and I think he’s got the right mentality. Having had his experience in the NFL, he knows what it’s all about... I think he’ll be a real asset to Urban”.
On Ganther, Morgan Scalley said, “I’ve loved that guy ever since I played with him. He is a player’s coach. He’s also very demanding which his coaches were with him. I see those players at that level really buying into Quinton and his way of doing things, so Jacksonville’s lucky to have those two”.
Dave Schramm has been coaching since 1984. He has made many stops, but currently, he is the RB coach at Utah State. Schramm coached at Utah from 2005-2011, spending the bulk of his time as the RB coach (2005-2008, 2011). He also has offensive coordinator experience at Utah (2009-2010), Fresno State (2012-2015), and Weber State (2018-2019). We have seen Whittingham reunite with a former coach when he hired Andy Ludwig in 2019. Could we see another reunion with a former coach?
Robert Conley - Assistant Coach / Running Backs - Weber State
Robert Conley was the starting right guard for the Utes from 2005-2008, earning All-American honors his senior year. Conley was a team captain in 2008, helping the team to their Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. Conley subsequently spent time as a graduate assistant at Midwestern State University, Utah State, and Utah while earning a master’s degree in Sports Management. With over 12 years of coaching experience, Conley has spent the last two as the running backs coach at Weber State. Conley is also a proud Texan which could come in handy recruiting the Lone Star State.
Whittingham has dipped into Weber State’s coaching staff before hiring Colton Swan who had coached at Weber State from 2004-2018.
Jamal Anderson played RB at Utah from 1992-1993. Anderson racked up 1,275 yards on 223 carries in his two seasons, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He was drafted in 1994 in the 7th round by the Atlanta Falcons. Anderson played eight years in the NFL, accumulating 5,336 rushing yards and 4.0 yards per carry, and 1,645 receiving yards. He earned First-Team All-Pro honors in 1998. Anderson does not have any formal coaching experience, which makes this choice unlikely, but he’s a passionate alumnus who already reaches out to recruits, so you never know.