How times have changed for redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The young Oregon signal caller was watching from the sideline in the 2012 Rose Bowl, and now just a year later he’s landed in the spotlight of the Ducks fourth consecutive BCS bowl.
To those who follow the Oregon Ducks, Mariota’s maturation as the starting quarterback has been a steady rise to success and stardom.
But if you ask the reserved redshirt freshman about his success, he’ll tell you the climb has been a long one.
“It’s been a long road really” said Mariota on Fiesta Bowl media day.
“It’s funny because it’s just beginning. To be able to see what I’ve done since the spring,… and to be able to go through all that and now to see where I’m at I think I’ve grown,…not only from the leadership standpoint,..and as a football player,..but also as a person.
For the first time in his very young career, Mariota will take the field on Thursday as a starting quarterback for an 11-1 team in one of the largest BCS bowls of the college football post season.
A much different set of circumstances than 12 months ago in Pasadena.
“It’s a lot different” explained Mariota. “From last year, to watch what happened has made me prepared.”
Mariota’s growth in confidence has also allowed him to strengthen his game.
“To be able to feel comfortable and feel confidence will push us to new heights” explained Mariota when asked about his expectations in Thursday’s Fiesta Bowl.
“I think confidence, being able to be comfortable really involves everybody. It’s been fun to be able to go through all these experiences, find myself,…find the comfort level.”
The comfort level Mariota’s displayed throughout his freshman season is what’s caught the attention from not only his teammates and coaches, but from college football experts across the country.
“I’ve said it before, it took him about a week to figure out what we do on the offensive side of the ball” said Oregon head coach Chip Kelly when asked about Mariota’s maturation as the Ducks starting QB.
“He’s got a lot of special qualities, extremely quick of mind, can deduce things in a real rapid manner. Just got a lot of qualities that I think you look for in a quarterback.”
In Oregon’s rapid fire offense, the ability to think quickly on your feet is paramount to their success. It’s not only important to have the mental acuity to run the offense efficiently, it’s also extremely important to refrain from making mistakes.
On the season, Mariota’s thrown the football 312 times, yet he’s only been intercepted 6 times.
“He never really makes the same mistake twice” says Kelly. “He’s great at understanding and grasping the reason why and moving forward. The amazing thing he’s only a redshirt freshman, so how far can he go. It’s been an amaziing thing to watch.”
( Watch Marcus Mariota’s media day interview by clicking on the video box above )