I have seen a lot of questions posed both by the media and fans alike as to what the future holds for Marcus Mariota.
Will he turn pro after this season? that seems to be the prevailing question throughout the Duck fan base. The media asks because the fans want to know. It's kind of their job, after all, to ask those kinds of questions.
To his credit, like with everything on and off the field, he swats away the question with deflection much the same as he looks off a defensive back in coverage.
The reality is, though, that the questions will intensify in frequency as long as he continues to dissect college football opponents.
Some even speculate that Mariota may be the first overall pick next season if he were to declare himself eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft.
I don't know if that is or is not true. While many experts talk about the negatives of a spread quarterback, the year of the zone read in the NFL seems to be over. After high praise and success last season, the luster seems to be gone from its two biggest stars, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffn III. Griffin was injured near the end of the season last year and Kaepernick has not seemed nearly as explosive this season.
Will that change? Probably. Neither is simply a "zone read, option" quarterback, but both have some things that they need to work on to extend their careers.
In the NFL, linebackers are as fast as college defensive backs; and considerably larger. When they hit you, you feel it. Touchdown; first down; get down. That is how NFL quarterbacks survive; even running quarterbacks.
Mariota is different, but not that much different. He is not necessarily faster than Michael Vick; and Vick got hit plenty in his prime. Where he can differ is the process of being a quarterback.
Footwork, throwing motion, release, understanding of complex defensive schemes. Those are all areas he will need to improve on to become a successful NFL quarterback. Speed comes in handy when it is needed, but at that level, fast quarterbacks who run too much get hit too much.
Do I think he should stay? Difficult to say. I think he should be smart about where he goes. Being the number one pick is great, but if you end up with a team that is a perennial bottom feeder and does not develop anything around him, what good would it do to be number one overall?
Look at the staff stability. Look at the front office. If the team with the number one pick is one that is going to use him as a short term marketing gimmick; force their hand. Yes. Be like Eli Manning; or John Elway.
Should he stay? That is a decision for several months from now.
Will he stay? One current player told me that Marcus is on pace to graduate this year. If that is the case, the "finishing college" answer is pretty much a moot point.
My thought is simple. I am going to enjoy watching Mariota for as many games as he is an Oregon Duck and hope whenever he chooses to move on, that he continues to excel at the next level.