Utah’s Kiel McDonald dives into what makes Bills RB Zack Moss special


FILE – In this Sept. 14, 2019, file photo, Utah running back Zack Moss (2) carries the ball against Idaho State in the first half of an NCAA college football game, in Salt Lake City. Moss was selected to The Associated Press All-Pac 12 Conference team and tied for Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year with Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley and Oregon tackle Penei Sewell, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – While the Bills are still getting to know Zack Moss, Kiel McDonald has seen what he can do up close and in person for the past three years.

McDonald has been Utah’s running backs coach since 2017 and each year with the program he continued to help Moss take his game to the next level.

Last year, Moss became Utah’s all-time leading rusher his senior season when also had his third straight 1,000-yard season. Under McDonald, Moss rushed for 1,173 yards in 2017 and 1,096 in 2018 while Utah led the Pac-12 in rushing in 2019.

And while one of the things that Moss is best known for his is not afraid to make contact, powerful style running, McDonald says there’s more to it than that.

“Creative would be the word that jumps out to me. You get a chance to watch Zack and Zack is very, very elusive. I don’t know if he gets enough credit for that because he is so powerful. Everybody sees the big strikes and running over guys and continuing runs and doing all the things of that nature but he is very creative, he’s very smart, he’s intelligent when he’s running so I think that Bills Mafia is getting a player that’s just not a one trick pony but he’s tough as nails,” McDonald said on a zoom call with News 4 Sports.

The Bills drafted Moss in the third round of this year’s NFL draft and is expected to help elevate their running game and be that 1-2 punch, thunder and lightning with Devin Singletary.

Also on his impressive resume at Utah, Moss was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year last season and set six school records while tying two.

Even his junior year, despite only playing nine games because of an injury he still passed the 1,000-yard mark under McDonald’s guidance. So what’s the secret to McDonald’s success? There’s three key elements he focuses on with his running backs.

“The biggest thing is probably yards after contact. The second thing would be ball security, not putting the ball on the turf. If we get a chance to maintain the ball we’ll win more games first of all and you’ll have more yards. Lastly is with each and every one of those guys is creating who they want to be, who do you want to be perceived as because perception is reality so if that’s who you want to be as a running back we need to go ahead and take steps to becoming that type of player,” McDonald said.

Speaking of a type of player, when comparing Moss’s style of play to current and former NFL players, McDonald thinks of a former Buffalo Bill.

“He’s kind of a blend of two guys. I do like a Frank Gore comparison but Ricky Williams as well. Ricky had those short, choppy steps, he was very elusive, he was very powerful, he can catch the ball so those are the two guys that kind of jump to my mind when you talk about Zack,” McDonald explained.

So we’ve covered what Moss is like as a player but how about off the field, what’s his personality like?

“Zack is a humble and hungry young man. He always has a smile on his face, he’s very family oriented, he’s not the most outgoing in terms of what he’s gonna say. He really digests things before he speaks, he internalizes a lot of things so he’s just a good young man,” McDonald said.

Before coming to Utah, McDonald was the running backs coach at Eastern Michigan but actually played cornerback in college first at Sacramento City College then transferred to Sacramento State, and finished her career at Idaho. But it was a family connection that got McDonald into coaching offense.

“I had two cousins that were younger than me and their father was a really good coach in the Bay area and he wanted me to help them out. And I didn’t know a bunch about running back play, I did it a little bit in high school just a splash but I had to go and find out some information so I could go ahead and help these guys. And I didn’t know how talented they were but they were extremely talented high school players so I had to go ahead and learn it and I just kind of fell into that role of running back play,” McDonald explained.

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