Marcus Mariota, who one month ago was considered a Heisman frontrunner and a potential Top 10 NFL draft pick, just surprised a lot of folks by announcing that he’s staying at Oregon for his junior year. Mariota, a redshirt sophomore, has struggled down the stretch down due to a knee injury. Although the injury wasn’t officially announced, it was evident if you watched the loss to Stanford in which the speedy Mariota didn’t even attempt to run.
Mariota rushed for nine touchdowns in the first seven games, and something either happened against Washington State or UCLA, because he hasn’t been the same since. In the last four games he’s been a non-factor on the ground, and coincidentally, the Ducks have lost two games after a perfect start to the season.
[RELATED: October 2014 NFL Mock Draft]
Was Mariota’s decision based on information he received from the NFL? Or did he just love college life in Eugene that much? It’s unclear at this point.
What is clear is that all the NFL teams needing QBs – I outlined 10 of them earlier this season – just crossed one guy off the list. And one has to wonder how far Clemson’s Tajh Boyd is sliding down the list given his massive struggles in the two biggest games of the season, against Florida State and Clemson. Now the NFL will wait to see what Brett Hundley decides to do at UCLA. His coach, Jim Mora, is returning, if that matters. With Hundley back and a lot of young talent – plus the offensive line can’t get any worse – the Bruins should open as a Top 15 teams.
One final note on Mariota: It’s no secret that the longer you stay in school, the more scrutinized you are. It happened to USC’s Matt Barkley. And Oklahoma’s Landry Jones. And perhaps a little bit this year to
Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. Washington’s Jake Locker. [Ed. Duh.] It might not be fair, but it happens. (Not to the Andrew Luck’s of the world, but there aren’t many of those.)
Yes, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel is doing this: