Kiel McDonald leaves a hole in the Utah football team, Quinton Ganther crosses it

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Ganther played for Utah in 2004 and 2005, played five seasons in the NFL and then served as a running backs coach at Weber State.

(AP Photo) Former University of Utah running back Quinton Ganther returns to the U. Ganther was hired to replace Kiel McDonald as running backs coach for the Utes.

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Every coach hire counts.

But the vacancy that Kyle Whittingham had to fill as running backs coach this week was particularly significant.

Kiel McDonald had moved into that position since joining in 2017, coaching multiple All-Pac-12 running backs, including Zack Moss and Tavion Thomas, while also building a reputation as an ace scout. McDonald, as you may know, was the primary scout for the late Ty Jordan, who was a Freshman All-American and Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2019.

To replace McDonald, who is now the running backs coach at USC, Utah announced the hiring of Quinton Ganther on Wednesday. An ex-Ute ​​(2004-05), a 2006 seventh-round NFL draft pick, five years in the NFL, seven seasons as a running back at Weber State under another ex-Ute, Jay Hill, and last season as offensive quality control coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars under Urban Meyer.

When McDonald left, Ganther was a name that immediately came across as an option, and perhaps a no-brainer given the 38-year-old’s credentials, but this hire was particularly important given the make-up of the porters’ room. Whittingham ball for 2022.

Thomas is back for one more season after rushing for over 1,100 yards and a record 21 touchdowns in a single season. Micah Bernard is in line for an expanded role in 2022 as a fourth-year sophomore, while Chris Curry will be in the same boat as a fifth-year senior. High-profile freshman Jaylon Glover will be making his college debut, redshirt freshman Ricky Parks has a ton of storylines.

After Utah ran the ball on 58% of their offensive snaps in 2021, this is the piece Ganther inherits. He’s talented, he’s experienced at the top, he’s inexperienced under Thomas and Bernard, although talented and seemingly capable.

Was Ganther an obvious choice to replace McDonald’s? With so much talent in his newly inherited post room, we’re about to find out.

Other things on my mind

• One of the biggest talking points after the Rose Bowl was the lack of pass rush. If you watched the second half of Utah-Ohio State, you might have noticed that Mika Tafua didn’t look like himself. On Wednesday, at the end of an Instagram post that was basically a thank you and goodbye to Utah, Tafua slipped in there that he had played the last three games with a sports hernia. I owe him to have emptied it, it can be a brutal wound.

• The Utah women’s basketball team has had five straight games postponed, so they won a game against UC Riverside on Friday. Kicker: The game is at the practice facility, not the Huntsman Center, which is set up for the gymnastics team’s showdown with Oklahoma. You do what you gotta do when you’ve been through what the Utes have been through lately.

• Every Pac-12 South team has legitimate reason to be optimistic except Colorado, which saw 2020 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Jarek Broussard on the NCAA transfer portal on Thursday . Yes, Arizona fans, especially Arizona fans, should be optimistic.

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