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."

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. 

Oregon WR Darren Carrington II announces he will return for senior season

Oregon WR Darren Carrington II announces he will return for senior season

Oregon wide receiver Darren Carrington II posted on Instagram tonight that he plans to return for his senior season. 

Carrington posted that he talked over his decision with his family and that he looked forward to playing for new Oregon coach Willie Taggart and new wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty. 

Lol PSA: yeah. See tha face WE GOT UNFINSHED BUSINESS wit the PAC12!😤 For all of you fans that have stayed by my side positively from the beginning ha I'm happy to say, After talking to GOD my family, myself and kel for months...And after talking to our new coach coach taggart and our WR coach coach doughtry I don't think God coulda put me in a better position to come back and be coached by these two and the rest of the staff coach T is puttin together and ball out 1 more year wit my brothers... WE BACK AUTZEN ... I wanna thank God for his blessings and my fam for being by my side through IT ALLLL, and Kel U on my back😤😌 trust me I GOT YALL! Hyped up bout this new era of duck football y'all better get on board cause it's nothing but UP from hear let's get this money boizzz😎! #DoSomething #ForeverYOUNG #longlivemybrother #thankful #seniorcampaign #realSAVAGESZN😤 #newEra #1deepDC #5thyear #NoGAMES #MOTIVATED✊🏾#2017seasonletsgo #biletnikoff😌😴 #staysleep💤 PC: the great @useedrew

A post shared by Darren Carrington II (@1deepdc) on

Carrington might be the most talented all-around receiver to ever play at Oregon but he has yet to put together one full season of elite play. 

Carrington came on strong at the end of his redshirt freshman season in 2014 before being suspended for the national title game against Ohio State for failing an NCAA drug test by testing positive for marijuana. He finished the season with 37 receptions for 704 yards and four touchdowns. 

The NCAA's suspension carried over to the 2015 season where he missed the first six games. Carrington had a big second half of the season with 32 receptions for 609 yards and six touchdowns in seven games as he and quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. became best friends on and off the field.

In 2016, Carrington didn't quite click with transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop or freshman Justin Herbert, and finished the season with 43 receptions for 606 yards and five touchdowns.

Roses or Roulette?: Ducks Preview Part 3 - WRs and TEs hard to beat

Roses or Roulette?: Ducks Preview Part 3 - WRs and TEs hard to beat

College football is back! The Ducks begin fall camp on Monday so we're breaking down each position to determine if the Ducks, picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12, and their fans will be smelling roses as Pac-12 champs during a trip to the Rose Bowl, or placing bets at a roulette table prior to watching a sixth-place UO team in the Las Vegas Bowl. Each position is graded using the poker hand scale.  

Today: Wide receivers and tight ends. 

Projected starters: WR - Senior Dwayne Stanford (6-5, 205), junior Charles Nelson (5-8, 170) and redshirt junior Darren Carrington II (6-2, 195).  TE - Senior Pharaoh Brown (6-6, 250). 

Key backups: WRs - Redshirt junior Devon Allen (6-0, 190), redshirt sophomore Jalen Brown (6-1, 200), freshman Dillon Mitchell (6-1, 190), redshirt freshman Alex Ofodile (6-3, 200);  TEs - Seniors, Evan Bayliss (6-6, 250) and Johnny Mundt (6-4, 245).

Smelling like roses:  Last season's receiving corps was the greatest in program history. Hands down. Gone, however, are Bralon Addison and Byron Marshall. Devon Allen is running the 110-meter hurdles at the Summer Olympics in Rio. Will he return to the football team? Likely. But even if he doesn't, and even without Addison and Marshall, this group remains loaded. Not quite as deep as last year, but loaded, nonetheless. 

Carrington could be the most talented Oregon wide receiver in program history. He served a six-game suspension last season for violating NCAA drug policies prior to the 2014 national title game, but still caught 32 passes for 609 yards and six touchdowns in seven games. Double his production over a full season and you have a potential All-American. 

Maybe the most fascinating piece will be Nelson. His return to the offense full time after playing safety much of last season could lead to a weekly fireworks show from the slot position reminiscent of De'Anthony Thomas. Nelson should receive touches in a variety of ways (screens, short passes, sweeps, reverses), all designed to get him into space, allowing Nelson to make defenders look silly. No way, if healthy, Nelson doesn't score at least 10 touchdowns this season. 

Stanford will be steady as ever. Jalen Brown is a budding star. Mitchell showed flashes in the spring game. Ofodile is a former four-star recruit. 

Then there's the return of Pharaoh Brown at tight end. He hasn't played since that horrible night at Utah in 2014 when he suffered a severe and grotesque leg injury. Now healthy, Brown could return to his NFL-caliber form. If so, watch out Pac-12 defenses. Mundt and Bayliss are solid, but they lack Brown's overall talent, which was special before the injury. 

Place your bets: Just like with the running backs, the Ducks can afford to lose a couple of pieces and remain potent. The only problem is finding enough opportunities for each star to shine. 

Odds are: The receivers, assuming a quarterback can get them the ball, will be as feared as any in the country. Carrington and Nelson will be the most feared receiving duo in the Pac-12.  

Poker hand: Four of a kind with a healthy and dominant Brown at tight end.  The receiving corps is certainly championship caliber. 

Next up: Offensive line.  

Other posts: QuarterbacksWide receivers/Tight ends; Offensive line; Defensive line; Linebackers; Defensive backs.  

Promising wide receiver Kirk Merritt leaves Oregon

Promising wide receiver Kirk Merritt leaves Oregon

Sophomore wide receier Kirk Merritt is transferring from Oregon, a source has confirmed. 

Merritt's departure, first reported by 247sports, comes as a shock given the great expectations that surrounded the former four-star recruit out of Louisiana.  But sources with knowledge of the situation say that Merritt was concerned with finding enough playing time in Oregon's deep group of receivers. 

Merritt in a Tweet, however, referred to "family situations" as his reasons for leaving the Ducks. No word yet on where Merritt will land.  

Merritt appeard to be a big part of Oregon's future after he played in 12 games last season as a true freshman, catching five passes for 61 yards while displaying elite level elusiveness. It was rather shocking that Merritt did not redshirt last fall given the team's depth at receiver. But his talent forced the coaching staff to use him on special teams and in spot duty at receiver. 

With the departure of receivers Byron Marshall and Bralon Addison to the NFL, Merritt figured to see an expanded role in 2016 behind projected starters, redshirt junior Darren Carrington Jr., senior Dwayne Stanford and junior Charles Nelson. Oregon also returns redshirt junior Devon Allen, a former starter who could once again force his way into the starting lineup, and redshirt sophomore Jalen Brown. 

Carrington is believed to be set to enter next year's NFL Draft. Stanford also will be gone. Logic then would dictate that Merritt likely could have been in line to start by 2017. 

Clearly he didn't see it that way, or didn't want to wait that long. 

It must be pointed out that Merritt last year expressed to CSNNW his desire to play running back, which he played in high school. That could have played into his decision to leave. There also is the emergence of freshman wide receiver recruit Dillon Mitchell, who had two touchdown receptions in the spring game. 

Mitchell, along with redshirt freshman Alex Ofodile, also add to the crowded depth chart at wide receiver moving forward. 

Merritt certainly would have played more this season than he will at any other FBS program given that transfer rules will force him to sit out a year.  Or, he could transfer down a level and play right away. He does have the luxury of still possessing a redshirt year, which he could use at an FBS program this fall and then contend for a starting job in 2017. 

It is also possible that a serious enough "family situation" could result in an appeal to the NCAA for Merritt to play in 2016 at an FBS program near his home. The NCAA can allow transfers to not have to sit out if they are transferring for hardship reasons in order to be close to home. 

Merritt tweeted that he had to do what's best for his family. Oregon certainly could have used his talents, but clearly the Ducks have recruited well enough at the wide receiver position to not only cause his departure, but be able to absorb it as well.