Coaches' Corner: Kiel McDonald and Colton Swan
SALT LAKE CITY - Coaches' Corner continues as we begin our second trip through the Utah staff, beginning with running backs coach Kiel McDonald and linebackers coach Colton Swan. The pair offered insights with the local media into their respective position groups this week ahead of Utah's Saturday matchup at Oregon State.
The Utes (4-2, 3-0 Pac-12) will meet the Beavers in a 5:30 p.m. MT kickoff in Corvallis, Oregon and the game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.
Running Backs Coach Kiel McDonald
On if it's hard to find "the hot hand" with the variety of running backs finding success…
"It's pretty easy. Whoever's balling and whoever's producing is going to be the guy that we roll with. I think we're starting to settle on in. Guys are making plays. But it hasn't been difficult at all."
On what's changed and where Tavion Thomas has grown most…
"Ball security! Absolutely. To me, it's just that simple. This is a young man that we have raved about since the Summer time. As you can see, there's nothing that he can't do. He just has to go ahead and protect the football, protect the team. He's doing that right now and he's got to continue to get better each week."
On what stood out about Thomas when first evaluated on tape…
"He's a tough tackle. He's big, he's fast, and at that size he can bend. At running back, a lot of people don't talk about being able to bend. And he can do that. He can block, and he can actually catch the football. At some point, I'm sure we're going to fling it on out there to him and he'll get into space and he'll get a chance to really see what he can do."
On the variety of skillsets in the running back room…
"We want to be as well-balanced as we can. Everybody's got to block, everybody's got to catch, everybody's got to produce at the end of the day. I think that they buy into that. They want to be well-rounded running backs themselves. We just want to be the best that we can be."
On TJ Pledger's progression since the Washington State game…
"He continues to make plays when he's in, [plus] his ability to block. He had a great block on that boot that [Cameron Rising] had. He became the lead blocker, and blocked one of their starting linebackers. Size does not matter to him. He's just become a little more explosive."
Cornerbacks Coach Colton Swan
On the linebackers coming together…
"We played great [against ASU]. We did a lot of really good things. We produced, like you said late in the game when it was needed. Guys stepped up—Devin Lloyd, Karene Reid, you found Nephi Sewell out there a little bit. That was nice to see."
On Karene Reid stepping up so quickly…
"It means a lot, that's for sure. He's such a talented kid. He's very smart. He's very athletic. He cares about the game, he loves the game. That's what makes him the way he is. What makes him great is his passion for the game. I love to see it and I think the world of the kid.
"He spends a lot of time working on it and perfecting it. We're constantly working on little strategic techniques that can help him. He's new to the position as you can tell. He's constantly working on little things to improve his game. He cares a lot about it, like I mentioned earlier. He's constantly refining it, studying film, besides on the field stuff, working off the field as well."
On Devin Lloyd…
"He's got a lot of layers to it. He does stuff that most kids out there in this country don't do, with his work ethic and his commitment to the game. I would be hard pressed to find a guy that spends as much time watching film and perfecting his play as he does. He is extremely bright, he is smart, he works hard at it. He wants to be good, and that's why he's in the position that he's in.
"A lot of leadership comes from your non-verbal cues. I wouldn't be surprised if he is still out there on the field right field, which he is. Sometimes that non-verbal stuff goes noticed and teammates feed off of it."
On differences in the first half versus the second half…
"Nowadays, an offense is designed to trick you, to give you a bunch of camouflage things out there. Sometimes it takes you a second to get it figured out. I know especially from the linebacker position, 20, 30 years ago, even back when I played, it was smash-mouth. It was 'how many yards can we get in a cloud of dust?' Now it's 'how can we move this guy out of position and take advantage of this?' Sometimes it takes little bit longer to see things like that."
Previous Editions of Coaches' Corner
Oct. 13 - Chad Bumphis (WRs) and Sharrieff Shah (CBs/Special Teams)
Oct. 5 - Jim Harding (OL) and Lewis Powell (DEs)
Sept. 22 - Sione Po'uha (DTs) and Freddie Whittingham (TEs)
Sept. 14 - Kiel McDonald (RBs) and Colton Swan (LBs)
Sept. 7 - Andy Ludwig (OC/QBs) and Morgan Scalley (DC/Safeties)