Just two weeks into Oregon’s Spring Camp, it appears leadership may be the key question mark moving into fall camp and the 2014-2015 season. The Ducks suffered a big loss this week when it’s most experienced receiver, Bralon Addison, suffered a torn ACL during Wednesday’s practice, likely putting him out of commission for the up coming season. Make no mistake, his absence will be felt and will be a big hurdle for the team to overcome, despite the many young, budding receivers ready to be the “next man up.”
As Duck fans and sports pundits look to analyze the development of those young receivers, it’s clear this team who undoubtedly faces some immediate growing pains will be even more dependent on it’s obvious tried and true leader, Quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Despite his natural talent and accomplishments on the field however, leadership hasn’t come as naturally. Since taking on the starting QB role, Mariota has been open about his shy nature and his ever-present focus on being more vocal with his teammates and growing as a leader. Facing some adversity last season both personally and as a team, Mariota seems to have grown tremendously in this area, presenting as more confident, outgoing and even funny at times during post-practice interviews. Even though growth is evident, Mariota admits he’s it’s still a work in progress. When asked about his on-the-field progress, he said being more vocal is still a focal point.
“I’m still developing that sense. You know, like I said, I’m kind of shy by nature, kind of quiet and it’s still some of those things I got to kind of remind myself about. Like, ‘Hey! you’ve got to speak up a little bit’.”
Mariota, described by Coach Helfrich as a perfectionist, went on to say he’s also working on his body language.
“My body language is another thing I’ve really got to work on as well. You know, Coach Helfrich has really kind of pin-pointed that on me- to just show confident body language and just be a leader.”
Coach Helfrich also discussed Mariota’s leadership developmnet, explaining his focus on improving his body language on the field simply meant “having just a more a more visible outward sense of urgency” and “just being a little more outwardly aggressive.” He noted this kind of demeanor can meet a lot to an Offensive Line and “a young receiver whose not lining up quickly enough who goes ‘that guy’s looking pretty smooth’.”
If these are the kinds of improvements being focused on, the Ducks are likely in good hands. It’s the little things though that make the difference and only go to show the Ducks struck the lottery when Mariota opted to forgo entering the 2014 draft and instead returning to lead the Ducks at least one more year. And a leader, they will need.