The temperatures in LA this week were exceptionally high, but Oregon Quarterback, Marcus Mariota may have been even hotter- so hot in fact, I decided to forgo interviewing him and instead gave him a green and yellow sno cone from the events’ sno cone station. No, I’m not kidding.
The Pac 12 Media Days were held this week at the prestigious Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, signaling the very near return of college football. With each Pac 12 team bringing a trio- Head Coach and two players, the two-day event was filled with hours of questions- each searching for insights into off-season changes and what the upcoming season may bring. As expected, many of those questions focused on Oregon, especially as it was announced that Oregon had been picked to win the Pac 12 Championship Title in the Pre-Season Media Poll, largely due to the return of Heisman hopeful, Marcus Mariota.
With Oregon losing to Stanford and Arizona last year and failing to make it to the Pac 12 Championship two years in a row, one might think the poll results would send shock waves, especially in Palo Alto. Ironically, it was Stanford Head Coach, David Shaw, who most strongly defended the results saying,
“I might pick Oregon also. Who knows? Someone that athletic and the way Marcus Mariota and his future looks, I mean, why not?”
Coach Shaw continued on by praising Oregon and Mariota,
“I would be shocked if somebody picked us over Oregon to be honest. I don’t mind it one bit. They’ve got a lot of guys coming back as we do. My assertion, which I said last year and I held to last year and held this year, the best quarterback in the nation in Marcus Mariota. I think he was the best in the nation last year also. There is nothing like him in college football.”
The compliments from Stanford didn’t stop there as Quarterback, Kevin Hogan praised Mariota as both a player and a person. When asked what he admired most about Mariota on the field, Hogan described Mariota’s elusiveness and ability to confuse defenses, explaining how defenses will think they have him and then quickly lose him. Off the field, the accolades from Hogan echoed what many others said of him this week,
“He definitely has great parents, keeping him grounded. He’s just a really down to earth guy…I kind of got to see it with Andrew a few years ago. It’s good to see. It makes you happy to see guys like that.”
Hogan went on to describe a moment the two shared following Oregon’s loss against Stanford last year describing how Mariota sought him out after the game to congratulate him. “That’s a tough thing to do in such big games,” Hogan said.
Outside of Stanford, several other players and coaches around the Pac echoed Shaw and Hogan’s sentiments regarding Mariota. Pac 12 Quarterbacks across the board named him as the best QB in the conference and in the country. When asked who he thought was the best, Washington State Quarter Back, Connor Halliday stated,
“It kind of depends on now you want to answer that question and how you want to break that down, but overall football talent, it’s got to be Marcus.”
Oregon State Quarterback Sean Mannion talked about Mariota’s field presence saying,
“He’s always kind of a steady hand for them. He’s obviously a great athlete and a great football player, that jumps off the tape at you. But to me, he seems like a calming presence for their team.”
It wasn’t just the offensive players raving about Mariota. Defensive players also talked about the struggle to get to him on the field, underestimating his speed and his unique ability to read defenses. Perhaps Washington State Linebacker, Darryl Monroe said it best when he described coming in as a freshman and encountering Mariota on the field.
“He’s deceptively fast, I really didn’t know how fast he was until my freshman year when I had a chance to sack him twice but missed because I didn’t know how fast he was.”
Sure, these guys are trained to say the right things, to remain humble, and to give others accolades. But without a doubt player after player and coach after coach spoke genuinely of Mariota as both a player and a person. It’s hard not to.