Oregon Ducks

Taggart would send lasting message by cutting Carrington loose

Taggart would send lasting message by cutting Carrington loose

TAMPA, Fla. - Oregon coach Willie Taggart can send a lasting message to his team and future players by removing senior wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr. from the Ducks, or at the very least issuing an extended suspension that makes him an afterthought. 

Carrington's DUII arrest early Saturday morning was a slap in the face to Taggart and the program. The very talented wide receiver during his career has displayed mostly self-destructive behavior that has hurt the team and his future. Taggart must not allow Carrington to take him down with him. 

Everyone who covers, follows or has been involved with Oregon football knows that Carrington has been a discipline issue. But Taggart, who took over for former coach Mark Helfrich last December, held out hope that the Carrington could turn things around under a new regime and with his NFL future clearly hanging in the balance. 

Through six months, all appeared well.  Taggart expressed extreme pride in Carrington's progress as recently as Friday afternoon. 

CSN is in the Tampa area this weekend to report on Taggart and his family for a television special that will air later this summer. While riding along with Taggart on Friday from Tampa to his home town of Palmetto, Fla., the new Oregon coach talked briefly about how well Carrington had been doing on and off the field since under the new regime.

"He's been great," Taggart said. "Academically. As a leader. He's been doing all the right things."

About 13 hour later, Carrington betrayed Taggart's belief in him when he was arrested at 3:15 a.m., Saturday morning and cited for DUII. According to reports, Eugene Police have accused Carrington of driving into a pole at a McDonald's drive-through before being arrested.

Taggart suspended Carrington indefinitely and said he would gather more information about the incident before making a decision about Carrington's future. 

This will be a tough decision for Taggart. Carrington is Oregon's best receiver on a team thin at the position. Losing him could cost the Ducks a win, or two next season. He is that good. He's also probably more trouble than he is worth.

In 2014, Carrington was suspended before the national championship game after testing positive for marijuana use. The six-game suspension extended into the following season and another game was tacked on after he violated a team rule during the fall. Last year, Carrington was accused of shoving and injuring a man in Eugene. 

At this point, Taggart must decide if keeping Carrington around is worth the headache. He clearly has learned nothing from recent Oregon examples of blown opportunities displayed by former star players, Cliff Harris and Colt Lyerla.

Carrington, a sure-fire NFL prospect, repeatedly makes bad decisions that are costing him millions of dollars. At this point, there is no reason to believe that he won't mess up again over the next six months. 

Keeping Carrington, if proven to be guilty, could hurt Taggart's credibility with the team as a disciplinarian, especially if the receiver were to mess up again down the road. Carrington has received numerous chances to fly straight and his transgressions have been quite serious. He repeatedly places his desires and impulses ahead of the team and his own career. 

By removing Carrington from the team, Taggart would be telling the entire Ducks community that he won't tolerate players who put themselves ahead of the team, no matter how talented and gifted they might be. 

Keeping Carrington around could have the opposite effect. How could Taggart tell young players to fly straight or else if Carrington were to have been allowed to smoke weed, allegedly commit assault, get arrested for DUII and a commit a host of other minor offenses by breaking team rules, etc., yet still remain on the team?

Taggart giving Carrington a chance under a new staff was admirable, even though many who knew the receiver believed him to be incapable of not being a problem. 

Now Carrington has directly betrayed Taggart. 

When former co-offensive coordinator David Reaves was arrested for DUII back in January, it took the university all of a day or so to begin the process of terminating him. Former wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty, with Reaves that night, was encouraged to leave the program, as well. He landed at UCLA. 

A coach should be held to a higher standard than a player. But this is not Carrington's first brush with trouble. So it would be inconsistent to let him stick around after getting rid of Reaves so quickly.

However, Taggart must also weigh the fallout for Carrington if he were to be removed from the team. There is a chance Taggart goes the same rout that former UO coach Chip Kelly took with LeGarrette Blount after he punched a Boise State player following a season-opening loss on the road. 

Kelly initially kicked Blount off of the team before having a change of heart and ultimately suspending the star running back for what amounted to 10 games. Blount remained on scholarship and on the team but still paid a severe price for his actions. 

By remaining on the team, Oregon allowed Blount to salvage his future, and although he wasn't drafted into the NFL the following spring, he has carved out a nice career that includes a Super Bowl championship. 

Does that happen if Kelly had completely ended Blount's college career following the Boise State incident? Tough to say. But Blount certainly benefited from Kelly's compassion. 

Carrington could do the same if Taggart shows some mercy. Carrington clearly needs help and would benefit from remaining within the structure of the program. At the very least he must be hit with at least a very lengthy suspension, one that makes Carrington an after-thought as practice fodder on the scout team for most of the season while he gets help. 

Or, maybe it's best for the Oregon program to simply let Carrington go. He could transfer to an FCS program and rehabilitate his image there if an FBS program won't take him. Carrington, who has alredy graduated, could go anywhere as a graduate transfer. 

This won't be an easy decision for Taggart to make. But it's clear that the decision he makes could have a lasting impact on the program, for better or worse. 

Oregon QB Justin Herbert reacts to loss of Carrington, thin WR depth

Oregon QB Justin Herbert reacts to loss of Carrington, thin WR depth

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert might be the most impacted by the departure of senior wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr. 

But Herbert said he is standing by coach Willie Taggart's decision to remove Carrington from the team following a DUII arrest in the early morning hours of July 1

"I think Darren has moved on and we have too," Herbert said. "We have a lot of great receivers still on the roster, so we're going to get those guys ready and let them make plays."

Carrington would have been the team's unchallenged No. 1 receiver. Now he will look to do damage with Utah after transferring there this week. Taggart warned the team when he took over in December that breaking rules would have consequences. Following through with Carrington, who has a track record of sketchy behavior, reinforced that mantra. 

"I don't know if he was trying to send a message," Herbert said. "He's a man of his word. He's the leader of this team. He's the head guy. We've just got to listen to him because he knows what he's talking about."

Herbert said he is confident in the pass catchers that remain, starting with senior slot Charles Nelson. 

"Charles is going to be a huge name this year," Herbert said.

The man to likely replace Carrington on the outside will be sophomore Dillon Mitchell, who last season caught one pass for nine yards. 

"He's going to be a great receiver," Herbert said. 

Nelson and Mitchell won't hardly be enough. Oregon has a history of seeing receivers get injured. Depth will be a concern unless younger players rise to the occasion. 

"But I think the main focus is getting the younger guys ready," Herbert said. "They gotta get the offense down and just have timing with them and gain confidence with them."

Freshman on the spot will be Jaylon Redd, Johnny Johnson III and Darrian McNeal, who might have earned a spot in the rotation during spring drills after arriving early to campus. Redshirt sophomore Malik Lovette could start now that Carrington is gone. 

"Fortunately we've had enough workouts where I think we have a lot of promising guys," Herbert said. 

Tight end depth will be an issue after losing three seniors, but the starting position should be fine with sophomore Jacob Breeland. 

"I know where he's going and he knows where I'm going," he said. "Just the entire year we've spent has been a huge bonus."

Despite the positive spin, losing Carrington's talent certainly will hurt. But losing the distraction he often brings could prove to be a blessing. 

Oregon to reduce number of uniform combinations in 2017

Oregon to reduce number of uniform combinations in 2017

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Oregon football coach Willie Taggart moments ago at Pac-12 Media Days said that the Ducks would not wear a different uniform combination for every game this season like it had during most seasons in recent years. 

"We're not going to have 12," he said. "We're going to cut back."

Taggart wouldn't elaborate on exactly how many combinations Oregon would wear, only saying that they are set for 2017 and 2018. 

"We're going to be sharp," Taggart said. "But you won't see as many different combinations. We want to play football. Those uniforms are really nice when you have a really good football team."

Oregon went 4-8 last year. 

Oregon is famous for its seemingly infinate number of uniform combination. Watch a Marcus Mariota highlight video and it looks like he played for 25 different teams. That will change under Taggart. At least for now. 

"We've got to do some good things and play well to make those uniforms look like we want them to," he said. 

Oregon sophomore linebacker Troy Dye said he likes the new philosophy.

"You've got to earn back the stripes to wear a different uniform every week," he said. "Just try to get that trust back from Nike and show them that we're still a top tier school and win big games."

Nike, huh? When pressed, Dye said Taggart didn't tell the team why the were not having as many combinations this season. He just assumed it was because of Nike due to a poor season.

"I just figured," Dye said. 

Dye said he didn't give much thought to the uniform combinations last season but in hindsight he can see how they might have looked a bit silly given how poorly the team played. Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert agreed.

"Looking back at it we probably didn't earn them," Herbert said. 

Doubling back to Taggart, when informed of Dye's comments he said that Nike was not behind the change. Taggart said there will still be plenty of combinations just not a new one each game. That in itself will be a big change for Oregon. 

 

Cal's Wilcox talks hiring former UO O-Line coach Steve Greatwood

Cal's Wilcox talks hiring former UO O-Line coach Steve Greatwood

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - When California named Justin Wilcox head football coach on Jan. 14 he wasted little time extending a job offer to former Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood. 

"Whatever day it was that I got hired, I want to say that he was there the next morning," Wilcox, a former Oregon defensive back, said today during Pac-12 Media Days. 

In fact, Wilcox already had Greatwood in place in anticipation of landing the Cal job. Cal announced Wilcox as its next head coach on Jan. 14.  CSN broke the news that same day that Greatwood would be headed to Cal.

"I think the world of him as a person," Wilcox, 40, said. "I think his track record speaks for itself in terms of his coaching and we're fortunate to have him on our staff. He's the type of guy that everybody can learn from. I know he's energized. It's been really great to be back around him. It's been a number of years since I've got to see him a lot. Just really fortunate for us. A lot of experience."

Wilcox and Greatwood, 59, have Oregon connections but weren't there at the same time. Wilcox played defensive back for the Ducks from 1996 through 1999.  Greatwood coached offensive line and tight ends from 1982 through 1994 before moving on to the NFL, Maryland and then USC. He returned to Oregon in 2000 and remained there until the entire staff was let go last fall following a 4-8 season.  

Greatwood, however, did coach Wilcox's older brother Josh, who played tight end at UO from 1993 through 1996. The Wilcox brothers are the sons of Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker and former Oregon star Dave Wilcox and hail from Junction City, Ore. 

California running back Tre Watson, whom Greatwood helped attempt recruit to Oregon, said the offensive line appears to be responding well to its new coach. 

"He definitely makes it simper for the offensive line so they're able to pick things up," Watson said. "He brings a different dynamic."

Media doesn't expect Oregon football to make dramatic turnaround

Media doesn't expect Oregon football to make dramatic turnaround

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Media members who cover the Pac-12 apparently aren't buying that the Oregon Ducks will make a dramatic turnaround in 2017 under first-year coach Willie Taggart. 

The media has picked Oregon to finish fourth in the Pac-12 North behind Washington, Stanford and Washington State. OSU is picked to finish fifth. Results were announced today just hours before Pac-12 Media Days begin in Hollywood, Calif. 

The prediction flies in the face of the Las Vegas betting odds that have the over/under for Oregon's win totals at eight. Although it's mathematically possible for the Ducks, 4-8 last season, to go 8-4 and still finish fourth in the Pac-12 North the chances of that occurring are slim. 

Cal finished fourth in the Pac-12 North last year with a 5-7 record, 3-6 in the conference. Arizona State placed fourth in the South, also with a 5-7 record (2-7 overall). 

What's curious is that one pollster picked Oregon to win the North and the Pac-12 title game.

The media picked USC to win the South and the Pac-12 championship. 

Here are the polling results:

NORTH DIVISION  

1. Washington (49 1st votes)

2. Stanford (1)

3. Washington State (1)

4. Oregon (1)

5. Oregon State

6. California

SOUTH DIVISION  

1. USC (49)

2. Utah (1)

3. UCLA (1)

4. Colorado (1)

5. Arizona State

6. Arizona

PAC-12 TITLE GAME CHAMPION: USC (28 votes), Washington (22), Oregon (1), Utah (1).

Willie Taggart addresses discipline philosophies that led to Carrington's dismissal

Willie Taggart addresses discipline philosophies that led to Carrington's dismissal

EUGENE - Oregon coach Willie Taggart, speaking in general terms during an interview with CSNNW for an upcoming television special, laid out his philosophies for discipline that ultimately led him to dismiss senior wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr from the team following his arrest for DUII in the early morning hours of July 1. 

"It's tough," Taggart said about having a player fail to meet his standards. "But you set rules. You set rules and you let them know you're going to hold them accountable."

Carrington, who on Friday pleaded not guilty to the charges while appearing in a Eugene courtroom, is seeking a place to land as a graduate transfer. His departure hurt an already thin UO receiving corps. But when Taggart took over the program last December he made it clear to the players that he expected them to conduct themselves properly on and off the field. Carrington, with his history of transgressions, had a short leash to work with given his history under the Mark Helfrich regime. 

Taggart, as recently as June 30, praised Carrington's improvement in the areas of being leader, academics (he graduated in the spring) and on-field performance some 13 hours before Carrington's arrest.  In addition to the DUII, Carrington was also cited for careless driving.

The news of Carrington's arrest greatly disappointed Taggart, who thought he had gotten through to the star receiver, who could use a big senior season to improve his NFL Draft stock, which has taken a beating over the years. 

Taggart, who was mentored by his former coach at Western Kentucky, Jack Harbaugh, and his son, Michigan coach and former NFL quarterback and current  Jim Harbaugh, said he prides himself on helping his young players become men.

"I tell parents we're going to send them back better men then they were when they got here," Taggart said.

When he fails to get through to one, Taggart feels the disappointment.

"I tell them all, 'I'm going to have your back. No matter what, I'm going to have your back! But you've got to have my back,'" Taggart said. "'And the way you have my back is by being the best football player you can be, the best student you can be and having the best character you can have.' That's all I ask."

Taggart said the response from Oregon's players to his philosophies has been positive, as they were during previous coaching stops at South Florida and Western Kentucky. In those two cases, Taggart turned around losing cultures that included some discipline problems here and there. 

"In the past two jobs I've taken over, there's always someone that's going to come out and test the waters," he said. "A lot of times I don't think they necessarily try to, they are just caught up in doing things the way they've been doing them for so long that it's just hard to just change at some point. You just hope that they do."

Taggart said players must meet at least two of his three requirements in order to be on the team: Be a good student. Display high character. Be a good player. 

"You can't have just one and think you're going to be on this football team," Taggart said. "If you have two then we'll work with you on the one you're struggling with and we'll try to get you up to par. I feel like if each one of these young men have those things in order they are going to be very successful in college."

Carrington became the first Ducks player to fail within the Taggart philosophy and lose his place on the team. Unfortunately, it's likely that he won't be the last.  

"You set rules and you hold them accountable," Taggart said. "You don't play any favoritism. You don't sweep anything under the rug. You hold them accountable to what you say you're going to do. And that's what I do. Me, I'm going to be there for you but if you break the rules there's consequences and you're going to serve those consequences if that happens. I think all of the players know that we're going to be fair. You want them all to know that you're serious about the discipline part of it and doing things the right way."

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 10 - Taggart will need several incoming freshman to contribute

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 10 - Taggart will need several incoming freshman to contribute

Oregon's quest to improve greatly over last season's 4-8 record will depend on the rapid development of several young and/or previously little-used players. Here is a look at ten most likely to rise to the occasion in 2017.

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver.  

We've already listed several freshman in this list. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister will likely be the backup now that Travis Jonsen and Terry Wilson Jr. have transferred. Cornerback Thomas Graham could start, he was that good during spring. Nose tackle Jordon Scott will be needed in the middle, especially now that junior Rex Manu is out for the season following an injury suffered in a car accident. Slot receiver Darrian McNeal must provide depth at a thin position made thinner by the dismissal of senior Darren Carrington Jr. from the team. Safety Billy Gibson could be in the mix at a very uncertain position. 

All of the freshmen above were around for spring drills as early enrollees. But what of the incoming freshmen who have just arrived on campus? Well, several of them might be needed to perform this season, as well.  

Here is as look at a handful:

Austin Faoliu, defensive line: Oregon is excited about the three-star recruit with five-star potential. At 6-foot4, 295-pounds, he fits the mold of being a big defensive lineman with attitude that could provide instant impact. This is the first defensive line recruit corralled by famed defensive line coach and recruiter, Joe Salave'a. Four-star recruit Rutger Reitmaier's decision to transfer following spring ball makes Faoliu's development more imperative. 

Deommodore Lenoir, defensive back: The No. 1-rated athlete in the nation - as named by Rivals.com - should find his way onto the field in some capacity. He could see time at cornerback or safety, positions that have bodies but little in the way of consistency. 

Sampson Niu, linebacker: The four-star recruit could find his way into the linebacker rotation right away. Ultra athletic and tenacious, if Niu can pick up the Ducks' schemes he might have the same impact Troy Dye had last season as a freshman. But at 217 pounds, Niu must bulk up in a hurry. 

Bruce Judson, wide receiver: The four-star recruit is a shifty playmaker that could push for time in the slot and might also be in the running to make it on the team's depth chart at quarterback. 

Cyrus Habibi-Likio, linebacker/safety/running back: A tremendous athlete, Habibi-Likio could play all over the field. Chances are he won't be in the running back mix this season - Oregon is loaded there - but he could find some action on defense. 

 

The Finished List

No. 1: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. 

No. 2: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

No. 3: Nose tackle Jordon Scott

No. 4: Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister

No. 5: Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland

No. 6: Sophomore linebacker La'Mar Winston.

No. 7: Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Gary Baker. 

No. 8: Wide receivers Alex Ofodile, Malik Lovette and Darrian McNeal.

No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver

Oregon RB Royce Freeman to be added to Doak Walker Award watch list

Oregon RB Royce Freeman to be added to Doak Walker Award watch list

Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman will be added to the Doak Walker Award watch list today, according to Chris Perry, spokesperson for the prestigious award given annually to the best running back in the college football.

As it turns out, Freeman's name was left off of the initial 61-player list because Oregon had not submitted his name to Doak Walker officials.

Oregon's sports information department has gone through a transition this summer with long-time director Dave Williford retiring and being replaced by Jimmy Stanton. 

The Doak Walker Award sent out its initial request for nominees on June 19. Players can be nominated through October. Universities are entrusted to submit qualified candidates based on certain criteria award officials trust the programs to filter through, Perry said. 

Freeman meets all of the criteria but his name had yet to be submitted. Stanton took over the department in late June but has been in the process of relocating and preparing for the upcoming season.  An Oregon source said that nobody in the department was aware of the request for nominations. 

CSN reached out to the Doak Walker Award for clarification as to why Freeman, who has rushed for 4,148 yards and 44 touchdowns during his career, only to find out that the the Ducks had not submitted his name.

But, all is well now. No harm done. 

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 9 - DBs Billy Gibson and Brady Breeze

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 9 - DBs Billy Gibson and Brady Breeze

Oregon's quest to improve greatly over last season's 4-8 record will depend on the rapid development of several young and/or previously little-used players. Here is a look at ten most likely to rise to the occasion in 2017.

No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson

The safety position is going to be one of the most hotly contested this fall. As of now, it appears that redshirt senior Tyree Robinson and redshirt junior Khalil Oliver have the inside track to start. Robinson's days as a cornerback could be over with the emergence of freshman Thomas Graham, who could start opposite senior Arrion Springs while pushing junior Ugo Amadi to the No. 3 corner spot. 

Safety isn't nearly as settled, however. Sophomore Brendan Schooler saw starts last year but missed all of spring with an injury and isn't being viewed as an obvious candidate to start moving forward. 

That's where redshirt freshman Brady Breeze and freshman Billy Gibson come in. The Ducks need both to show something this fall to not only push the veterans but to provide depth and, maybe more importantly, create stability at the position entering 2018. 

Breeze, a four-star recruit in 2016, has demonstrated great ability but is also very young and likely needs much more time before he becomes starting-caliber.  Gibson, a three-star recruit signed last February,  falls into the same category but, according to coaches, showed some strong signs during spring drills that he has enough athleticism to make an immediate impact if he picks up the defense. 

Senior Juwaan Williams and junior Fotu T. Leiato II should also be in the mix. But for the present, and the future, it would benefit Oregon greatly if Breeze and Gibson could make a push up Oregon's depth chart. 

The working list

No. 1: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. 

No. 2: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

No. 3: Nose tackle Jordon Scott

No. 4: Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister

No. 5: Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland

No. 6: Sophomore linebacker La'Mar Winston.

No. 7: Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Gary Baker. 

No. 8: Wide receivers Alex Ofodile, Malik Lovette and Darrian McNeal.

No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver

 

 

Willie Taggart sends message with removal of WR Darren Carrington Jr. from team

Willie Taggart sends message with removal of WR Darren Carrington Jr. from team

Oregon coach Willie Taggart has removed the team's best wide receiver, Darren Carrington Jr. from the program following a DUII arrest in the early morning hours of July 1, and in the process sent a message to the rest of the Ducks that certain levels of misconduct won't be tolerated. 

Taggart, through the athletic department, issues the following statement: 

"I have visited with Darren Carrington and informed him that he is no longer a member of our program. We will always consider Darren a Duck and support him in any way we can. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

The decision could not have been all that easy for Taggart. Carrington is the team's best playmaker on offense in the passing game, and maybe all around. But he has had far too many off-the-field transgressions to be ignored, including being suspended for the 2015 national title game due to testing positive for marijuana use, and for being accused of assaulting someone last fall. 

Plus, Carrington, according to sources on the previous coaching staff, has committed a series of relatively minor to semi-serious transgressions that have indicated he hasn't taken discipline seriously while at Oregon. 

Taggart wiped the slate clean with Carrington back in January and as recently as about 12 hours before the player's approximate 3 a.m. arrest on July 1, praised his star for the progress he had made on and off the field. Then, the following morning, Carrington betrayed Taggart's trust and belief in him.

When Taggart took the job last December he informed the entire team that it would not get him fired as it had Mark Helfrich by lacking discipline, cutting corners and losing games. "Try me," he warned the Ducks. 

By all accounts, the team as a whole got the message. Players who were not giving 100 percent under Helfrich were flying straight under Taggart or getting out of Eugene. 

Carrington is the latest and he has been dismissed the hard way. The good news for him is that as a recent graduate - a testament to him committing to academics - Carrington could transfer to play anywhere in the country. He could easily rehabilitate his image with one great season and end up in the NFL, where his talents belong. 

For Oregon, this puts a lot of pressure on sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell to become a legitimate threat in the lineup that now only includes one proven pass receiver, senior slot Charles Nelson.

Oregon will also need sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland, and wide receivers, redshirt sophomores Alex Ofodile and Malik Loveette, and freshman Darrian McNeal, to rise to the occasion and provide adequate to elite targets for sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert. 

It's a lot to ask for. It could safely be said that losing Carrington will cost Oregon a game or two next season, especially given that the defense - 128th in the nation last year - will likely still have major holes this season. 

But, in the long run, this is a move that could pay dividends by leading to a roster that now has an example of an elite talent being let go because he didn't follow team rules. 

That reality could result to a better overall program as Taggart's regime moves forward.