Photo via The Register Guard
PROS: Marcus Mariota is sure to impress with his cool composure and natural talent as he enters his red-shirt freshman season.
In the absence of Darron Thomas and LaMichael James, Mariota provides an immediate rejuvenation of energy and character.
For a new generation of the Oregon Ducks, fans may remember the post-LaMichael James Era as one defined by Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas on offense. While the talent is undeniable, Mariota brings admirable leadership capabilities to a team in search for a more solidified character and identity in the upcoming year.
“Last year I came in just trying to figure out where I fit in, and if this was the right decision in my life,” said Mariota. “Now I have to step up and be a leader.”
After a fantastic write-up in the Oregon Daily Emerald that chronicled his interest in leading by example rather than word, his play in the spring game certainly solidified that exact sentiment.
With 202 yards in the air (18-of-26 and 1 TD) and 99 on the ground (2 TDs including an 82-yard run on a fake), Mariota beat Bennett’s squad by a total of 41-14.
This was just a microcosm of what his talent had produced in his senior year in Honolulu, Hawaii. For his football team, he accumulated 2,597 yards in the air (32 TD’s and only five interceptions) and 455 yards on the ground (seven TD’s) before graduating and heading up to Oregon. He attended Saint Louis High School, the same high school as former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, and the most represented high school in the nation on the Oregon Ducks roster.
It was easy for Mariota to join a recruiting class that had already featured names like De’Anthony Thomas and Colt Lyerla. And from the time Chip Kelly first laid eyes on Mariota, he had become infatuated.
“He’s the perfect fit for what we do offensively,” said Kelly on signing day of Mariota, almost an HGI clone of what the Oregon Ducks coach looks for in a quarterback talent level.
Even Bryan Bennett is impressed with Mariota.
"He throws a good ball, he's fast and he's a smart quarterback, just like all the quarterbacks on our team," said Bennett. "Marcus is a good all-around player. It's going to be fun."
At the end of the day, Mariota is a very well-liked individual on the team with an identity central to that of the Eugene atmosphere. He is expected to shine if the opportunity were given to him.
“They’re definitely two different people,” said wide receiver Daryle Hawkins. “Marcus definitely has that laid-back culture that’s identified with being Hawaiian. Bryan is Bryan.”
Mariota has incredible speed and pocket presence, which more than enough compensates for the more laser-like arm of Bryan Bennett.
Perhaps another perk is that (as Addicted To Quack points out) Mariota seems much more open to a two-quarterback system much like the one that LSU used to win the BCS National Championship in 2007 than Bryan Bennett is.
Mariota, a diligent trainer, is marvelously ready for whatever role he is put into. His obvious wish is to earn the starting role, and his demeanor heading into the season exactly fits that mold.
Regardless of experience, Mariota may be able to replicate the 2010 decision of Chip Kelly, who gave the starting job to sophomore Darron Thomas rather than senior Nate Costa. Thomas went on to go 24-3 as a starter with two Pac-12 championships and the first Rose Bowl victory for Oregon since 1917.
“You see the older guys working hard, and it pushes you to do better,” said Mariota. “If it so happens that I will play — or Bryan will play — I want to be ready, from a mental standpoint as well as physical.”