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SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham addressed the media Thursday as part of the Pac-12’s annual media day event ahead of fall camp.
And naturally, the first question about the program was that of University of Oregon transfer Darren Carrington II joining Whittingham’s program earlier in the week.
Whittingham said it was a “tough decision” to add Carrington given his “checkered past” but that he gained enough information from people he trusted to welcome the star wide receiver to the program.
“You have to make a decision based on all the information you can gather,” he said. “Based on the athlete's attitude. You know, is he remorseful? Does he understand that he's done some stupid things and ready to put it behind him and move on? There is so much that goes into it. It's a judgment call. You're not always right. But I feel in this case it was the right thing to do to give Darren another opportunity.”
Whittingham added that Carrington joining the program is not a done deal and that the program still has “hurdles to go through,” but that he's hopeful to have him participating in fall camp activities when they start Friday.
“He's a terrific talent on the field,” Whittingham said. “One of the common denominators that came back from all the people I talked to about Darren was his fierce, competitive drive on the field, on the practice field. He's just a guy that is the ultimate competitor. Brings a toughness to that receiver position that will help us out.”
Whittingham said he has had “extensive” conversations with Carrington and his parents and that he recognizes that he’s “screwed up.” He added that they've talked to some former Oregon coaches and “guys that we trust, guys that I trust.”
“He did some dumb things; put himself in bad situations, very bad situations. I'm very, I've had strong feelings about some of the things he did,” Whittingham said. “At the same time, you help get a kid get back on track, get his life back in order and open up opportunities for him. I don't think you kick a kid to the curb because he made a mistake or two. Unless he's got no remorse and doesn't care.”
Oregon head coach Willie Taggart addressed the dismissal of Carrington, saying that he established rules when he first got hired on as the coach earlier this year and that Carrington did not live up to the established rules to be a part of the program.
“I think it's always tough because you always want to help young people,” he said. “You know, you don't ever want to throw them out or kick them to the curb. You want to help them reach their dreams, goals and aspirations, but in the same sense we have rules. And the rules, you have to abide by the rules, and when you break the rules, there are consequences.”
Taggart said he wishes Carrington “nothing but the best” moving forward. Utah will travel to Oregon on Oct. 28.
How will Utah’s offense look?
Whittingham addressed the hiring of new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor, saying the offense was “very excited” by his hiring. But how will the offense look?
He said the offense will utilize different tempos to throw off the defense, with the first part of a drive being a little slower and methodical to get in better position and then to become a little more up-tempo at times as the drive develops.
“That's Troy's philosophy. That's not something I'm trying to convince him of. He's fully in tune with that,” Whittingham said. “So there will be times we're going as fast as anybody in the country, but typically and most predominantly early in drives, a little more methodical.”
Has Colorado developed into Utah’s main rival?
It's no secret that Colorado has played spoiler to Utah’s hopes of a Pac-12 championship opportunity twice since they joined the conference together. Each game has been competitive and close, despite Colorado’s lackluster seasons over the years, minus the 2016 season.
However, Whittingham said he doesn't think it's quite to rivalry level yet.
“I don't want to say it's a rivalry yet because it doesn't have that feel. We have all the respect in the world for those guys. They do a great job,” he said. “Hopefully the feeling is mutual. To me, the term ‘rivalry’ is some sort of bad blood. Some sort of rift, I guess you could say. I don't feel that with those guys. We respect them, like I said, and they're a great program.”
Whittingham added that a rivalry can't be manufactured and that it must happen naturally and it “hasn't happened yet in my estimation.”
Earlier this year it was announced that the University of Utah was exploring the economic benefit of expanding Rice-Eccles Stadium. The university undertook a feasibility study and is expected to announce its findings sometime this fall.
Whittingham told media Thursday he has heard “things are on track and progressing.”
“Nothing is a done deal still, and, again, until the actual construction takes place, you never know for sure,” he said. “But I think it's being well received. Eight straight years of sellouts sure doesn't hurt our argument for it. But you want to be careful not to overbuild because you don't want a bunch of empty seats in your stadium.
“So there is a balance you have to strike there,” he added. “It seems to be in the low 50s is a good number in the Pac-12. That seems to be a targeted number that makes sense. So we'll see what happens.”