SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Darren Carrington was almost certainly going to get another chance to play football after being dismissed from the Oregon Ducks. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound receiver is too talented not to land on another team.
That didn't make the senior any less grateful for his spot on the Utah roster after starring in his first game wearing red and white Thursday night. Utah defeated North Dakota 37-16 in the season opener.
''I just want to take full advantage of every opportunity to step back on this field because you never know when it could be gone,'' Carrington said.
Carrington was dismissed from the Ducks earlier this summer after he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. Eugene, Oregon, police have said Carrington was arrested after hitting a pole at a McDonald's restaurant early on July 1. Carrington was also cited for careless driving and making an improper turn.
In his first public comments since joining the Utes, Carrington repeatedly thanked coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff for giving him a second chance.
Carrington now gets another opportunity to make an impression on NFL scouts and Utah gets a much-needed No. 1 receiver for the spread offense installed by first-year coordinator Troy Taylor.
''Darren Carrington is as advertised,'' Whittingham said. ''I don't think it was the plan to get him that heavily involved. He's a great receiver, he runs good routes, he's got a big catch radius, he's got length. You put the ball in the general vicinity and he's going to come away with it. He's a very polished receiver. When you're talented as he is, he's going to get a lot of touches.''
Carrington caught 10 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown against the Fighting Hawks. His receptions were the most by a Utah receiver in a single game in the last two seasons and the yardage eclipsed any individual single-game output from 2016.
Utah has historically struggled at the receiver position and recruits notice that type of thing. Coaches have acknowledged that regularly sending defensive linemen and defensive backs to the NFL has helped bring in talented freshmen at those positions.
Now success for Carrington could be a boon in recruiting on the offensive side because it lets potential recruits see that it's possible to grow into an NFL-caliber talent within the Utes' program, particularly with the new system. Utah has never had a receiver named first-team All-Pac-12 since joining the league in 2011. The program has only had seven 1,000-yard receivers in school history and only two in the last decade.
''With coach Taylor's offense, the doors are wide open,'' Carrington said.
Carrington has also embraced the atmosphere surrounding the team that many incoming Utah players have raved about.
''Just from the defense and the offense, it's straight brotherhood,'' Carrington said. ''We're always hanging around, joking around. Everybody talks to each other around here. You get that from the coaches, too. They play around with you, joke around. They're not only your coach, they're also like your friend. So, it's just good to have a cool family environment, and with having that, it just makes you want to go out there and play harder.''
But it's not a free ride. Whittingham said there are things Carrington must do outside of football, including counseling, to remain on the team.
''He's been perfect so far,'' Whittingham said. ''There's been absolutely no deviation from what the expectations have been. You bring a guy in that has some history, you need a support system for him. You don't just bring him in and cross your fingers and hope he does well.
''We have it all set up where he meets with people that help him through the situation that he got himself into and hopefully he's getting some really good counseling and feedback and will stay on the straight and narrow.''
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