Oregon Football: Projecting Marcus Mariota's Stats in 2013

Jeff BellCorrespondent IMay 7, 2013

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota
Oregon QB Marcus MariotaSteve Dykes/Getty Images

A couple weeks ago, I took a look at what kind of stats incoming freshman Thomas Tyner might put up for the Oregon Ducks in the 2013 season.

While that piece contained a ton of speculation due to simply not having seen Tyner in a college game, projecting statistics for Marcus Mariota might be a little easier.

Then again, with 32 touchdowns and only six interceptions to go along with nearly 2,700 yards through the air and over 750 on the ground, Mariota blew away any and all projections from last season.

The best place to start is to simply look at his passing stats and eliminate any possibility that they'll decrease in 2013.

There are several reasons why Mariota will have an even better season through the air, but the most important one is his work ethic. He is a driven individual with a desire to improve and get better, evidenced by reports of him being hoarse after several practices this past April.

Another reason, albeit a small one, is the performance he had in the spring game.

Granted the circumstances weren't exactly grueling, but Mariota came out and looked sharp on each of his drives. He threw just two incompletions, and only one of those missed the target. He looked decisive, aggressive and his passes all had the kind of zip and power behind them that made it hard for defenders to make a play.

The final reason why I assume that his passing stats will be better next season is that the wide receivers, as a unit, will be much better in 2013. The only significant losses were Will Murphy and Rahsaan Vaughn, who combined for 26 catches, 256 yards and a pair of scores. So yes, the phrase "significant loss" is a bit generous.

This all ignores the fact that in Oregon's final six regular-season games, Mariota completed less than 70 percent of his passes on just one occasion, in a loss to Stanford. He improved tremendously as the season wore on.

What could hurt Mariota is a lack of playing time late in games.

The Ducks open up the season with Nicholls State, Virginia, Tennessee, California and Colorado. I'd be surprised if any one of those five is close entering the final quarter, and at least three could be over by halftime.

Mariota's touchdown to interception ratio (32-6) might have been his most impressive stat, but I actually think that's where he has a chance to improve the most. The yards may not improve a ton if he doesn't play late in games, but he'll always be able to throw fewer picks.

The second part of these projections will take a look at what Mariota might do in the ground game, where multiple long touchdown runs proved to everybody that he's a threat to score from any spot on the field.

Given the relative inexperience at the running back position, I think we may see an increase in this category. I don't think many Duck fans want to see Mariota running around wildly like Johnny Manziel because it greatly increases the risk of injury. But with his kind of speed, it's difficult to envision an Oregon offense where Mariota doesn't use his legs very often.

So where does that leave us?

Well, Mariota averaged a hair under 26 attempts per game through the air, so assuming the offense will have a few more wrinkles in the passing game that number should increase, which gives us a solid foundation for projecting his statistics.

Of course, with the season still four months away, some of these numbers could end up way off. But based on last season and how Mariota appears to be improving, here's how I see the 2013 season playing out in the stats department:

Last Season (2012): 230 for 336 for 2,677 yards with 32 TDs and 6 INTs. 752 yards rushing, 5 TDs.

This season (2013): 270 for 375 for 3,100 yards with 36 TDs and 4 INTs. 900 yards rushing, 11 TDs.