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The Sports Daily > Duck Stops Here
Getting to know the 2011 Oregon Duck newcomers: Marcus Mariota

Marcus Mariota
QB – 6-4, 194, 4.48
Honolulu, Hi. (St. Louis HS)

2010 Stats: Passing 165 of 255 (64.7%) 2,597 yards,  32 td 5 int
                   Rushing 60 carries 455 yds (7.6 yards per carry) 7 tds

                   Team Record 11-1, State Champions

Marcus Mariota may have the best package of skills, running, throwing, leadership, intelligence, coaching, size and speed, of any quarterback the Ducks have recruited for the spread offense. 

He is as tall as Dennis Dixon and nearly as fast.  He has tremendous throwing mechanics, having been tutored by one of the best high school quarterback coaches (many high schools don’t even have a quarterback coach, some not even an offensive coordinator) in St. Louis High’s Vinnie Passas, who trained Jason Gesser, Tommie Chang, Jeremiah Masoli, former Utah starting quarterback Darnell Arceneaux and former Hawaii starter John Hao, five starting division one quarterbacks in all.  Masoli and Gesser started in Rose Bowls, Chang set NCAA passing records, and Arceneaux became Mariota’s head coach at St.Louis.

Asked about Mariota, Passas told reporter Paul Honda of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser,  “He has the accuracy of Jason Gesser. Has the coolness of Timmy Chang. Has the competitive spirit of Darnell Arceneaux,” said Passas, who coached these passers. “So he’s all of those guys built into one guy, and that’s Marcus. He’s faster than all of them. He’s smarter than all of them. So if we’re choosing sides and I have the first pick, Marcus would be the first pick. Don’t tell Darnell that.”

Marcus was a 3.6 student in high school, and his eye-popping senior stats are even more amazing when you consider that he had to wait until his senior year to become the starter for the Crusaders–he had two quarterbacks who got scholarships in the classes ahead of him.  He won a state championship, achieved a 189.97 passer ratiing while throwing 32 tds and just five interceptions as a first-year starter.  That points to two things: great coaching and a lot of discipline in preparation for a kid working to earn his opportunity.  The experience of competing to become the man at St. Louis will be something the promising signal caller can draw on as he works and competes with two other talented prospects to be the next quarterback at Oregon.

Hawaii prep football is a big deal, maybe the biggest deal outside Florida or Texas.  St. Louis plays most of its games at Aloha Stadium.  The games are televised.  The Star-Advertiser covers them with three reporters. Per capita, Hawaii produces more Division I football players than any state in the union.

In Mariota’s first start last season, he took the second play from scrimmage, a keep on the zone read, around the left side for a 51-yard touchdown.  In their league-title clinching win over Punahou he completed 14 of 20 passes for 390 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two scores in a 42-7 win.  In the semi final game, a 42-28 win over Leilehua, Mariota was 17-for-19 for 349 yards with two touchdowns and one pick. He also rushed for 49 yards and another score, a 20-yard bootleg. 

He’s used to pressure.  He’s used to big games, competing against top talent, fighting to earn a spot.  In Mariota and defensive end Lake Koa-Ka’ai, the Ducks landed the top two players in the Islands.  Both were named to the Hawaii High School Ring of Honor this June, an annual selection of the top 12 student athletes in the state from all sports.

Mariota’s high school head coach Arceneaux told Lindsay Schnell of oregonlive.com, “I can tell you right now, Marcus will be THE best passer of anyone (at Oregon). His throwing motion looks a lot like Andrew Luck’s. He’s a thrower first, a natural thrower with running ability.  He is probably one of the best quarterbacks to ever come out of Hawaii with all the intangibles. He’s a phenomenal athlete and he’s got unbelievable speed. Him on the zone read, it’s just not fair.”

Mariota verbally committed to Oregon in June before his senior year after attending football camp in Eugene.  He fended off letters, phone calls and visits from other schools and remained steadfast.  Washington even tried to contact him the night before Signing Day.  He wouldn’t pick up the phone, excited and determined to be a Duck.

Here’s a look at his senior highlight film:

 

Notes and observations from the video:

Works out of a spread offense, very similar to Oregon, zone read. 2:06 a rainbow 51 yards in air, over the defender, perfect trajectory, in stride to a receiver with a step on the defender.  Good pocket presence, calm and in command. 2:20 evades a defender, throws on the run 40 yards to the back of the end zone a strike.  Keeps his eyes upfield and finds an open target. Poised when improvising with the ability to create plays.  Tremendous arm strength. 2:36 zone read keep, defensive end crashes on tailback. Makes a decisive read and runs hard left side, 50 yard td. Trusts his speed in the open field and just blows by three defenders, cuts without losing speed.  Could have the best package of skills, throwing and running. of any quarterback recruited to run the spread at Oregon, ever, a scary thought.

3:08 creating another play on the run.  He can flip the ball 40 yards without setting his feet and deliver it with authority.  Reacts extremely well to pressure, no panic, as witnessed by his scant five interceptions in 255 attempts, against 32 tds.  Sees the field well and has a quick mind that seems to slow the action down around him in the midst of the chaos.  Tall stature allows him to get a good view of the play. Stays unhurried even when scrambling at full speed–will have to adjust to the increased speed of D-1 football, but he has all the tools to do so. 3:20 with time, checks off to a second target, 60 yard touchdown strike.  Delivers ball after ball to the chest of his receiver, with perfect leads, a pure passer.  Very composed, practiced and sure in the pocket. 3:41 mark of a great quarterback is how he handles things when they don’t go perfectly.  Here a high snap, quick penetration, three defenders on the play quickly.  He makes the quick decision to keep, jukes and stiff arms an unblocked linebacker in the backfield and rockets down the sideline for a 30-yard gain, tripped up by a safety with an angle. 4:14 rolls right and on the run, arcs a 28-yard touchdown in the right corner of the end zone, again in stride to the chest of a receiver with a step on his man.  Chooses good targets and trajectory, gets something on the ball even when moving.  

4:25 good rhythm and recognition as a passer.  Throws with confidence, finding a receiver in a soft spot between two defenders in an intermediate zone down the left sideline.  Comfortable running and throwing to either side.  With only one year as the full-time starter, has impressive maturity leading the offense, and the amazing thing is, he’ll continue to get better with practice reps and experience.  Clearly a very serious student (4.0 grade average) and a serious student of the game.

4:35 reading the weakside defensive end who stays neutral, but Mariota recognizes he can beat him to the corner.  Keeps, and doesn’t waste a move on the way to a 35-yard score 5:28 shuffles left and buys time in the pocket, keeping his eyes upfield finds a receiver 30 yards upfield on the post route.  Makes a great variety of throws well–can zip the ball into tight spaces, arc it on long routes, knows to take something off it on swing routes or tosses to the flat. 5:36 fade to the corner, td.  Good instincts, keeps the ball away from defender where only his receiver can catch it.  Solid fundamentals, obviously has an excellent foundation in the game and great youth and high school coaching, a great strength of Hawaii programs.  Island football is a religion like nowhere else outside Texas and Florida.  Players get good grooming, and there are some excellent values as they don’t get as much national exposure.

In college, against defenders who can close better, he’ll have to be more careful about his footwork.  There will be more times when he has to set his feet and deliver the ball with more authority.  5:49 lays the ball in in a tight space, again in the perfect place where the defender can’t get at it. 5:57 Wow.  Reminds of the good Masoli in his ability to create, but with a more reliable arm and a sounder makeup character-wise. Evades pressure and zips a strike down the right sideline. 6:02 a clothesline for a touchdown over the middle.  The spread is a perfect fit for him, allows him to survey the field and see the coverage unfolding, and he’s prepared well to be a starting quarterback.  Get the feeling he’ll apply the same discipline and study habits to his Oregon career.

Next comes a series of pitch-and-catch highlights, reemphasizing his delivery and rhythm as a passer.  Seam routes, crossing patterns, flies, hooks, slants, four verticals–he makes all the throws, squares up, delivers.

7:20 Some running plays. He can make plays with his feet and runs smart. Good ball handling skills and deception in the mesh.  As he fills out he’ll be big enough to be durable, and smart enough to slide or find the sideline when he has to.  7:30 from his own end zone escapes pressure moving left and finds another receiver for a good gain out to the 30. 7:40-8:00 A beautiful delivery, a very finished product as a passer for a high school quarterback.  Comparing to Jerrard Randall and Jordan Jefferson, there’s no comparison, really.  189.97 rating for a prep is staggering efficiency. 8:00 runs like Masoli, throws like Thomas, leads like Dixon.  What an amazing competition it will be, Spring of 2013 as Bennett, Rodrigues and Mariota vie to replace Darron Thomas. 8:55 has a good clock in his head, a good sense of when the pocket is breaking down.  Decisive about pulling the ball down, but looks first to see who’s open downfield and finds them.  Great knack for creating a play. 9:00 pump fake, over one defender and delivered sharply in front of the other. 9:07 Good vision as a runner, sees the lanes and exploits them.  Accelerates quickly and runs without hesitation or fear.  He’ll have to make himself ready for the challenge of bigger, faster defenders, but he will. 9:17 Awesome to think of Oregon’s three promising young quarterbacks throwing to Blackmon, Kelley and Sumler, with Seastrunk and Carson keeping the safeties and linebackers close to the line of scrimmage.

The video continues with a quick out, a slant and a scramble, all executed perfectly.  He’s a true dual threat and a complete football player, with a style his teammates will respect and develop confidence in.

His highlight video concludes with a dedication: “Grandpa Tau, this season is dedicated to you and the rest of the aiga in Lauli’i Village, American Samoa.”  It is this strong family and community structure that is Mariota’s deepest strength, the source of the pride and conviction he displays on the football field.