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Utah football: Keith McGill turning into Utah's running man

Published August 16, 2013 11:05 pm

Senior corner trying to shed pounds to keep up with Pac-12's speedy receivers.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Keith McGill might be a football player now, but he may want to consider long-distance running as a future hobby.

He is running with the ones, he is running with the twos, he is running with the threes and when they are all gone he is running with just himself — back and forth, back and forth on Utah's football field.

McGill, a 6-foot-3 senior cornerback, is trying to lose about 10 pounds to get himself to a playing weight of around 210 pounds.

Before one gets any images of a soft, pudgy corner, it should be noted that McGill is in better shape than probably, oh, say, 95 percent of the population.

The problem is, Pac-12 receivers likely fall in that other five percent. Utah's coaches want their corners to be as light and fleet-footed as possible. So McGill runs, and runs some more. This isn't the way he imagined his preseason camp would go, he acknowledges. He has been penciled in as a starter since spring, but extra pounds, a concussion and inconsistent play have found him in a battle for a starting role with Utah's younger corners.

"I'm just trying to get back in the rotation and get these things right," he said.

Unfortunately for McGill, few things have gone as planned since he came to Utah in 2011.

A transfer from Cerritos College, McGill was considered one of the top recruits in the nation and thought to be the immediate answer to Utah's experience and depth problems in the secondary.

Instead, he played in just five games before suffering a season-ending injury against Arizona State and missed the 2012 season as the shoulder problems continued.

The year off helped him heal his shoulder, but he has had a difficult time finding his game again.

McGill was inconsistent in spring ball, in coach Kyle Whittingham's estimation, and his weight problems have done nothing to gain favor.

"We're absolutely disappointed," a tight-lipped Whittingham said. "Yep, for sure."

McGill said he knows the team is counting on him, but he doesn't doubt he'll be ready for the opener on Aug. 29.

"It's not too frustrating to deal with," he said. "I've dealt with a lot more difficult things in the past. I just need to keep losing weight and it's coming along."

Keeping his morale up is his cousin, Davion Orphey, a JC transfer who is pushing for his own starting spot at corner.

"I keep telling him to just do what the coaches say and he'll be fine," he said. "He is all right. He is motivated."

That McGill is still in line for a starting role speaks to two things — Utah's lack of depth in the secondary and his talent.

In his first practice after a three-day absence with a concussion, McGill snagged one interception and nearly had another one. They are the kind of plays the Utes believe he can make, not only against Utah's backups but the premier receivers in the Pac-12.

"He has good technique," Whittingham said. "It still needs a little more refining, but he has great length and size. But that size right now is to his detriment."

McGill hears it and he knows he has to get the weight off.

So he takes a short break, then runs, and runs some more.

lwodraska@sltrib.com

McGill File

6-foot-3, 220, Sr.,

La Mirada, Calif.

Of note • Had 12 tackles and one pass breakup in five games in 2011. … His cousin is Davion Orphey, a junior for the Utes. ... First team All-American safety as a junior college player in 2010. ... Majoring in sociology.