Hollywood, Calif. • Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham can justify acquiring former Oregon receiver Darren Carrington II with any of several explanations, including the reality that if the Utes had turned him down, another Pac-12 school would have taken him.
What Whittingham cannot do during his Pac-12 Media Days appearance is describe the transaction as an act of benevolence.
I can endorse the Utes’ adding Carrington, with this qualifier: Nobody should view this arrangement as anything other than a business deal between a program and a player who need each other. Carrington is coming to Utah’s campus as a pair of hired hands.
The Utes are adding a player who personally delivered the worst loss of Whittingham’s Pac-12 tenure, catching the winning touchdown pass in Oregon’s 30-28 victory at Rice-Eccles Stadium last November. That’s a good story.
What’s less savory is how Carrington is facing DUI charges following other off-field episodes and was dismissed from Oregon’s program by new coach Willie Taggart. The core values of Utah’s program include the seemingly unnecessary listing of “No DUIs.” The loophole? Carrington was not a member of the Utes ... until now.
That’s how Utah can justify bringing in Carrington. And that’s fair, as long as Whittingham and athletic director Chris Hill are willing to live with some criticism. They can’t be defensive about a move that’s clearly designed to enhance the Utes’ offensive game.
This marriage of convenience comes with a remarkable twist. Carrington caught the last pass thrown at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2016, and he might make the first reception of 2017 — for the home team. That feat would rival how former Utes star Eric Weddle once scored touchdowns on consecutive plays from scrimmage, via a run and an interception return.
In November, Carrington made one of the most memorable plays of Utah’s Pac-12 era. He caught a 17-yard pass from Justin Herbert in the back left corner of the end zone with 2 seconds remaining and Oregon trailing the No. 12 Utes by four points. After a lengthy review as Whittingham watched the scoreboard video screen and shaded his eyes with a play-call sheet, the call was reversed and Carrington was ruled to have landed in bounds. Oregon 30, Utah 28.
And now he’s a Ute.
Carrington knew Utah lacked the proven receivers they need to properly execute new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor’s scheme; Whittingham knew the player needed a landing spot.
I don’t want to hear how Carrington deserved another chance. Playing college football is a privilege. But it also is unreasonable to say that Utah or any other school shouldn’t have taken him. That simply was going to happen somewhere.
Carrington is a symbol of college football in this era, eligible to play immediately as a graduate student. More accurately, he’ll become a five-month rental as a student-athlete, highly motivated to behave well and re-establish his NFL credentials. And then, in January, he’ll move somewhere and begin training for the draft.
Graduation rates and other signs of academic success are nice, but when did those numbers ever save a coach’s job at the Power 5 level?
Whittingham is not coaching for his job at this stage, having gone 28-11 over the past three seasons. He wants to keep winning, though. Carrington will help him do so, and that’s the only way Whittingham can frame this move.
UTES IN THE PAC 12
utes play washington state at 7 p.m.