"Being that we're from Texas, we understand each other," said Carrington recently after practice. "We've got a good relationship. Just his philosophy, his attention to defense, and the way he coaches. He coaches to make you better. That's what really stood out to me about him.
"Coming from Pitt, I had other options. I looked at other schools, just trying to figure out what would be the best option for me and make me better, both as a person and a player. And that was the real reason why I chose to come here."
As a true freshman at Pitt, the Dallas native and former three-star defensive back appeared in seven games under Graham. He embraced his head coach's aggressive defensive approach and developed a sense of comfort within a system that helped he grow throughout his first year at the college level.
"I actually wanted to stay (at Pitt) and see how the new coaches would be and that's exactly what I did," recalled Carrington. "I went through spring ball and actually went through most of fall camp last year with them, but it just didn't work out in the end.
"After that, I was like, ‘I gotta get up out of here.' I really just wanted to be closer to home and to find a new atmosphere."
When Carrington announced his plans to transfer, the list of interested schools was long. But in the back of his mind, he always knew where he wanted to go. After talking it over with his family, he made the move official and reunited with Graham in Tempe.
"I love it out here," he said with a smile. "First of all, you're talking about the Pac-12. Coming from the Big East, that's a big jump. And I would say, just the atmosphere of the program. The people out here, the school itself; it's a great tradition."
One of those Sun Devil traditions that Carrington recently got to experience was the team's annual retreat to Camp Tontozona, which Graham helped re-store upon his own arrival. After missing the team's pilgrimage to Payson last year, Carrington finally got to join the team last week when they escaped to the pines.
"Oh man, I loved it up there," he exclaimed. "It was my first time going, so it was a lot of fun. Just all of the team building stuff and being outdoors, it was a great experience for me. We played wiffle ball, jumped in the creek, and hiked Mt. Kush."
For a freshman who saw significant playing time in 2011, Carrington admitted it was difficult having to sit out last season while watching his teammates contend for, and ultimately up short of, a South division championship. But he took the year off in stride, focusing on what it would take for him to prepare for his return to the field in 2013.
"It was fun being able to see how the level of the competition is throughout the conference," he commented. "Just looking at some of the top receivers like Marqise Lee at USC and some of the other schools, it's a big challenge for me. It really motivated me to work hard every day in practice and get better and try to make a name for myself."
"Watching those guys come to work every day, it helped me stay motivated," Carrington said. "Darby, he's always got a high motor. And Osahon, he comes out here energized. He doesn't talk as much but he's a great leader, something I'm working on each day too. Just coming out working hard, and just being ready each day. Getting better as a player."
Carrington got back on the field with his new teammates for the first time in the spring, where he stood out while competing for the starting corner spot opposite Irabor with fellow defensive backs Robert Nelson and Rashad Wadood. Carrington took that strong spring performance into the summer, where he worked out regularly with other members of the starting defense in an effort to position himself for a breakout fall camp.
"The summer's been great, just working out with Coach (Griswold), conditioning-wise and doing a lot of team building things," he said. "We came in and did a lot of seven-on-seven's and stuff like that and got sharper as a defense. When I look at it, coming in as a player and doing conditioning workouts and then coming and better and better with the defense, it really allowed me to progress and make that jump. V "Now, I'm coming in confident. I know everything about the defense. I already trust my skills, so now I'm just putting it all together."
Carrington provides the Sun Devils with an aggressive corner who has shown a great ability to disrupt the passing game with his physical style of play at the line of scrimmage, a trademark of Graham's defense and a trait he developed from working out with Dallas native Kyle Ward.
"Coming out of high school, that's just what I learned and that's why Coach Graham really started recruiting me," he said. "In high school, I learned the fundamentals of playing corner, and learned how to disrupt the timing between quarterbacks and receivers. That's my game. That's just what I do."
Ward, who starred at Louisiana-Lafayette and played sparingly for the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills from 2008-09, took Carrington under his wing after his junior year at Lincoln High School. Until then, Carrington had never played football at the high school level, but Ward saw a talent in him that couldn't be ignored.
"All through high school I was hooping," said Carrington. "My junior year, he seen me and was like, ‘You're an athletic dude, got good size, and can run. I can teach you how to play corner.' So, we just worked hard every day during the summer before my senior year. I got my opportunity and then just threw it on the tape and the scholarship offers started coming in. It was just a blessing."
Now, just a little more than two weeks before the start of the 2013 season for Arizona State, Carrington has positioned himself as a starter for a defense that ranked as one of the nation's best last season and looks to raise the bar even higher in year two under Graham.
"First of all, the Bird Gang, we've got our own little swag on the DB side," Carrington remarked. "But really, we've got a great pass rush. Guys like Will Sutton, Carl Bradford, and Chris Young are up there causing havoc for the quarterback. It's going to be a great year, I believe, for the secondary. We've got a great opportunity to get out there, make plays, and make a name for ourselves and just try to get that Pac-12 championship like we want."