A former three-star recruit from Honolulu, Hawaii, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has burst onto the scene and become a household name across the college football landscape.
Had he declared for the draft last season, Mariota could have seen his name not only come off of the board before every other quarterback prospect, but he had the possibility of being the first overall selection before deciding to come back for his senior season to earn his degree (Mariota redshirted as a freshman, making him a redshirt junior on the field, but a senior in the classroom.)
Playing in the fast-paced offensive system that Chip Kelly founded in his Oregon days, Mariota is a dual-threat quarterback who not only has fantastic arm strength and accuracy, but he also had the ability to shred defenses on the ground. Last season, he passed for 3,665 yards last year, but also rushed for 752, surpassing the 100-yard single-game mark against Nicholls State and Virginia last season.
Vitals & Build
- October 30, 1993
- 6’4”, 215lbs (listed)
Mariota’s listed height and weight both look to be accurate, giving him a little more than the prototypical height needed to play at the next level. According to a story by USA Today Sports, Mariota has gained five pounds and plans to play the 2014 season around the 220 mark, which is a weight that he believes won’t sacrifice his speed. Durability shouldn’t be a huge concern, although Mariota did suffer a partially torn MCL in his left knee in the middle of the season. He played through the injury, although it did have an effect on his mobility.
When it comes to arm strength, Mariota has an elite arm. He puts a lot of zip on his throws, creating an extremely tight spiral that gets to his intended receiver quickly. When necessary, Mariota will put air under his passes to drop them into his receiver’s hands. He can make passes at all levels of the field and adjusts his velocity accordingly.
- On this play, Mariota drops a ball in perfectly just over the Tennessee defensive back’s head for a 36-yard gain.
When he is throwing the ball on the run, Mariota’s arm strength allows him to deliver passes to his receivers at ease. He sometimes puts a little loft on them, but he consistently does a good job of squaring up on the fly and rifling the ball into his receiver’s hands.
- Here against Stanford, Mariota rolls out to the right and his arm strength allows him to deliver a sharp pass (although it was a little low) to his receiver for a first down.
Accuracy & Touch
Mariota’s accuracy and ability to deliver the ball all over the field makes him one of the top signal-callers in the draft. On passes within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage, Mariota puts a fair amount of zip on the ball and hits his receivers in stride, giving them the ability to make plays after the catch. On passes that are longer than 15 yards, Mariota’s touch can be a bit inconsistent. On one play, he could deliver the ball perfectly to his receiver, hitting him in stride or dropping the ball perfectly into his intended receiver’s hands between holes in the opposing zone coverage.
- Against Washington, Mariota delivers a well-placed ball to his receiver, hitting him in stride for a long gain.
On longer passes, he is susceptible to delivering passes a little outside of his receiver’s catch radius. When he misses, he often misses high, part of this issue could be attributed to him playing with a group of receivers that are well under the prototypical NFL height.
- Mariota delivers the ball a little high at times, like on this designed curl route against Tennessee.
In 2014, Oregon has a few bigger receivers expected to play a larger role on offense this year, specifically Darren Carrington and Dwayne Stanford, so this issue is something to watch.
The thing about Mariota is, whether he is rolling out to the right or the left (which, if rolling left, can be extremely difficult to deliver well placed balls for right handed quarterbacks), he always seems to square up and deliver the ball effortlessly into his intended receiver’s hands.
Mariota has fantastic pocket awareness. The second he senses pressure, Mariota uses his athleticism to evade defenders and extend plays. He doesn’t seem to get rattled under pressure, possibly due to the fact that he is one of the more difficult quarterbacks in the college game to sack, despites Oregon surrendering 1.46 sacks per game last season. When he has time in the pocket, Mariota is extremely poised, going through all of his reads until he does one of three things: 1. Surveys the field and finds a man with a little bit of separation. 2. Hits his checkdown (usually a tight end running a short comeback route or running back running a swing route) or 3. Uses his legs to get past the first down marker.
- Here, Mariota is extremely patient in the pocket, surveying the field and going through all of his reads before his checkdown (tight end) for a short pass turned big gain.
Mechanics & Footwork
For a player with his experience, Mariota has exceptional footwork. When he stays in the pocket, Mariota consistently climbs the pocket while going through his reads. Once Mariota locks on his target he sets his feet, transfers his weight to his front foot, takes a good-sized step towards his receiver, squares and delivers a very catchable pass.
- Mariota climbs the pocket and keeps his eyes downfield until finding his receiver, running a post route towards the sideline.
On short throws, Mariota has a very quick release, keeping the ball extremely close to his chest until he begins his windup. When he spots his target, Mariota strikes quickly, bringing the ball to facemask level and quickly releasing it. At times, he will adjust his motion and throw more side armed on short passes, usually while on the run.
- When Mariota is rolling out, like on this play, he sometimes sidearms his passes.
He also has a quick release on longer passes. On throws longer than 15 yards, Mariota has a more overhand delivery than on shorter passes, giving him just enough strength to drive the ball downfield.
- On this 21-yard pass, Mariota climbs the pocket until he locks in on his receiver. At that point, he brings the ball back around shoulder level and delivers a quick strike.
Decision Making & Anticipation
Mariota is a very good decision maker. When he doesn’t have anything available downfield, Mariota will either scramble to get defenders to jump on the run, freeing up a receiver, tuck the ball and get out of bounds quickly, or just throw the ball away. There is a statistical representation of Mariota’s good decision making. In 2013, he didn’t throw an interception until the 11th game of the season, when he tossed two against Arizona and two the following week against Oregon State.
- His first interception came off of a tipped pass from Oregon receiver Bralon Addison. After the ball popped into the air, Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson did a basketball-like save on the sideline to his teammate Scooby Wright.
Despite his low interception rate, he is still moderately turnover prone while running the ball, mainly due to his carrying the ball away from his body.
When it comes to anticipation, Mariota does a good job putting the ball where his receivers are going to be, although he does deliver the ball a little too far in front of his intended receiver at times, costing them a big play in the process.
Mariota’s combination of athleticism and arm talent shows a lot of similarities with the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He is extremely quick and is extremely shifty in the pocket, allowing him to evade pass rushers at ease. When he tucks and runs, Mariota usually looks to avoid contact, whether by sliding and running out of bounds. But, when he sees the opportunity, Mariota is not afraid to quickly shift directions, dragging the entire defense with him in the process, to turn a small gain into a huge play, like in the play below.
- This is one of the more impressive runs from Mariota during his short college career. After surveying the field and seeing nothing available, he takes off for a run. When he runs into a wall of defenders, he quickly changes direction and adds another 20 yards to his gain before running out of bounds.
The clips were provided by DraftBreakdown.com