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McKinney Didn't Play Much at UW, But Utah Found a Starting Spot for Him

On the rebound, the safety shared in the Pac-12 championship with the Utes.

Senior safety Brandon McKinney was one of a dozen players who exited the University of Washington football team over the past 12 months and entered the transfer portal, looking for another place to play.

He did this better than any of them.

On Friday night in Las Vegas, McKinney found himself a Pac-12 football champion again, only this time as a starter for Utah as the Utes manhandled Oregon for the second time in three weeks and advanced to the Rose Bowl for the first time in school history.

"Pac-12 champs!! I love this team on everything!!! the former Husky tweeted a couple of hours after wrapping up a 38-10 victory over the Ducks in Las Vegas. 

McKinney, a 6-foot, 200-pound defensive back from Orange, California, opened 11 of 13 games for the Utes (10-3) and accumulated 60 tackles, plus a couple of pass break-ups.

Which begs an obvious question: Why couldn't he crack the Husky starting lineup for a prolonged period of time while Utah was able to make plenty of room for him?

In four seasons at the UW, McKinney played mostly special teams, starting just once in all that time — in the 2019 Rose Bowl against Ohio State. This came weeks after his other Pac-12 title game appearance, in a 10-3 victory over Utah.

Utah is headed to its first Rose Bowl.

Utah will play in its first Rose Bowl. 

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It was even more confounding considering the Huskies went through seven different starters at the two safety spots this past season, which was unexpected turnover considering how much the school likes to brag about the high rate of finished products from the secondary it makes available to the NFL.

McKinney was one of the elder statesmen in the Utah defensive backfield, teaming with fellow senior starter Vonte Davis and a couple of freshmen cornerbacks, Zemaiah Vaughn and Clark Phillips. 

He came to Utah with ex-Husky linebacker Josh Calvert, who was on the roster but didn't play in any games this season.

Kyle Whittingham gets a title-game bath.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham gets the victory ice bath. 

While his old team in Seattle fell apart without him, finished 4-8 and changed coaches in the past month, McKinney is going out the way everyone dreams, with yet another league championship ring and a trip to Pasadena.  

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