Chayden Johnston will be remembered in Utah football history as the kicker who initially beat out a Lou Groza Award winner. The field goal attempt that Johnston missed in the 2017 season opener will remain his only kick in college football.
Five days after concluding spring practice as Utah’s No. 1 kicker, according to Kyle Whittingham, Johnston announced he is giving up football with three seasons of eligibility left. The move promotes freshman walk-on Jadon Redding to the top position on the depth chart after a back-and-forth competition with Johnston during the spring.
Redding hit the left upright from 31 yards in his only field goal attempt of last Saturday’s Red-White Game. Johnston missed from 43 yards. Each kicker was inconsistent in terms of accuracy during Utah’s two major scrimmages, although Johnston displayed a much stronger leg than Redding. Johnston had been named one of Utah’s five captains for the spring, representing the specialists.
Whittingham said Saturday that Johnston had moved ahead of Redding, as charted by the coaches through 15 days of practice. Their kicks in the Red-White Game were “both very makable, obviously,” Whittingham said. “And that’s disappointing, but it’s still a work in progress.”
In his social media post Thursday, Johnston said, “For myself and my family it is in my best interest to move on to my next chapter as I pursue my goal to work as a health care professional.”
Redding is from Fredricksburg, Va., where he kicked a 52-yard field goal in high school as a senior in 2017. He said last year that he intended to enroll at a community college for the 2018 fall semester to improve his grades, while sitting out of football, and seek an opportunity at a four-year school. He enrolled at Utah in January.
Johnston, from Bingham High School, joined Utah’s program in 2017. He won a preseason competition with Matt Gay and got to attempt a 45-yard field goal in the season opener vs. North Dakota. The kick was wide left, by “maybe a foot,” Johnston said later. Whittingham gave Gay the next opportunity and Gay kept the job for two seasons, winning the 2017 Lou Groza Award as the country’s best kicker. He’s expected to be picked in next week’s NFL draft.
Johnston redshirted in 2018, not appearing in any games, while Whittingham endorsed him as Utah’s kicker of the future.
Whittingham is expected to look for another kicker to compete with Redding between now and the start of practice July 31.