When it all first happened, I actually got a call from Tim Patrick. They grew up together. He said, 'Coach, this guy, he's a good person.' —Utah receivers coach Guy Holliday, on Darren Carrington II
SALT LAKE CITY — When Siaosi Wilson was trying to learn what it would take to become an elite Pac-12 receiver, he found the perfect role model on YouTube.
The sophomore just never imagined he’d end up playing with the guy whose style he hoped to emulate – former Oregon standout Darren Carrington II.
“It was kind of crazy when I found out he was coming here,” said Wilson, who is expected to be among the Utes top receivers this season. “I’m not a very big receiver so I used to watch his highlight nearly every day to try and get some things from him.” Normally, landing a player like Carrington, almost certainly a future NFL receiver, would result in nothing but celebration.
Last year the 6-foot-2 San Diego native led Oregon’s offense with 43 catches for 609 yards and five touchdowns, including the game-winner against Utah at Rice-Eccles in 2016.
But the circumstances that led to his transfer to Utah were controversial. He was dismissed from the Oregon football program by new head coach Willie Taggart after being arrested for DUI on July 1.
It was a former Ute who went to bat for Carrington, who is eligible immediately as a graduate transfer to Utah.
“When it all first happened, I actually got a call from Tim Patrick,” said Utah receivers coach Guy Holliday. “They grew up together. He said, ‘Coach, this guy, he’s a good person.’”
Two days later, Utah’s new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor asked Holliday what he knew about Carrington.
“I said, ‘As a matter of fact, Tim Patrick has already reached out to me,” Holliday said. “You know, we played it slow, did our research, talked to the coaches up there, to him and his family, we talked to everybody. He has great parents. There were a lot of positives.”
While both head coach Kyle Whittingham and Holliday acknowledged the gravity of the allegations against the 22-year-old, they felt the specifics of his situation, including his attitude, warranted offering him the opportunity to play his final collegiate season at Utah.
Holliday said one of the toughest aspects of Carrington transferring to Utah has been dealing with public discussions that often turn to debates about whether the senior deserved another chance. Carrington has made no public statements and won't be available for media interviews until after Utah's first game on Aug. 31.
“We both have to deal with what’s happened in the past, and my focus has been knowing the whole story versus what’s been reported,” Holliday said. “It was some of the disappointing things in the media. When something bad happens, you jump on the bad part.”
The same week Carrington was cleared to play for Utah, he also entered a diversion program that will result in the dismissal of the misdemeanor DUI charges in a year, if he successfully completes the terms of his plea agreement.
Holliday said he that those who would criticize Whittingham and Utah for the choice should ask themselves a question.
“What if that was your child?” he said. “Would you want somebody to reach out and help your child if you felt they deserved help? Sometimes you need to walk in somebody else’s shoes before you cast out judgment.” In fact, Holliday said that, if anything, Whittingham deserves praise for the opportunities he offers young men that many of those same critics would turn their backs on.
“The one thing I don’t think coach Whit gets enough credit for is what he’s done for young people who’ve had issues,” he said. “He sees the good in people.”
Holliday said that if coaches were unwilling to give troubled youth second and third chances, he likely would never have built a successful life himself.
“If I think back, if I listened to what the public probably said about me, you know, I wouldn’t have gotten an opportunity,” he said. “So I’m never going to turn my back on a young person.”
Holliday said perimeters have been set and a support system is in place to help Carrington, and many others, reach their potential.
That support began in a room with Holliday, Wilson and Utah’s other receivers late last month. The first thing they did was give him grief for the catch that broke their hearts last season.
“We all did in my room,” Holliday said with a grin. “That was the first thing.”
Both players and coaches said the addition of Carrington adds experience, athletic ability, and an impressive work ethic.
“He fits in great,” Holliday said. “He came in and never said, ‘This is what I did’ or tried to wear that bad. He was just another one of the guys, and they took him in.”
Junior Raelon Singleton said there wasn’t really even an adjustment period.
“As soon as he came into our program, he fit right in,” Singleton said. “He’s just like family with us. It was the perfect place for him to be with us in Utah.”
Wilson said the addition of Carrington makes the team more competitive.
“We’re trying to get a Pac-12 title,” Wilson said. “Adding a talent like him makes it all possible. He’s a proven receiver in the Pac-12, a real key addition. It’s been real fun having him around.”
In fact, the receivers and Holliday said he’s now an integral part of both the team’s on field success and their off-field culture.
“He became a brother with us real fast,” Wilson said. “He makes us all better.”