Posted December 03, 2013

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Hroniss Grasu announce they will return to school for 2014

Mark Helfrich, Oregon Ducks
Oregon's Marcus Mariota

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) has announced he will return for the 2014 season. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Earlier this fall, when the Ducks were undefeated and quarterback Marcus Mariota had emerged as the Heisman Trophy frontrunner, it appeared that the Oregon star was on his way toward a top selection in the 2014 NFL draft. However, following the team’s recent losses to Stanford (26-20 on Nov. 7) and Arizona (42-16 on Nov. 13) — and with Mariota’s production falling off a bit, some of which can be attributed to a lingering injury in his left knee — the signal-caller has announced he’s returning to school for his junior season.

From the official Oregon release:

“It is an honor to be a student at the University of Oregon and to have the opportunity to represent our institution on the football field alongside my teammates,” said Mariota. “I look forward to earning my degree next year and to the rest of my career at this great University.”

Mariota exploded on the national scene during his redshirt sophomore campaign, throwing for 3,412 yards with 30 touchdowns and four interceptions and rushing for 582 yards and nine scores. He adjusted quickly to the departure of Chip Kelly and the elevation of former offensive coordinator and current head coach Mark Helfrich.

The Ducks had lofty BCS aspirations this season, and falling short of the BCS and Pac-12 championships likely had something to do with Mariota’s decision to return. Depending on which other players stick around, Oregon’s offense could be more potent than ever in 2014 — wide receiver Bralon Addison and running backs Byron Marshall, De’Anthony Thomas and Thomas Tyner are all eligible to return.

Center Hroniss Grasu’s choice to come back to Eugene is also extremely significant. The 6-foot-3, 297-pounder made SI.com’s midseason All-America team and is widely regarded as one of the top offensive linemen in the country. He is a contender for this year’s Rimington Trophy.

“The University of Oregon is a special place and I’m extremely happy to be returning for my senior year,” Grasu said. “To be a student-athlete in this community is an honor and an experience I’ll continue to cherish with my teammates.”

Had Mariota and Grasu opted to declare for the draft, the balance of power in the Pac-12 might have shifted away from Oregon. The Ducks came into 2013 having played in four straight BCS bowls, thereby establishing the program as a West Coast powerhouse. But given Stanford’s rise as perennial BCS contender, Arizona State’s breakthrough under Todd Graham, UCLA’s improvement beneath Jim Mora Jr. and USC’s recent hire of Steve Sarkisian, Oregon could have taken a step back with the loss of its premier playmaker and anchor of its line.

That said, Mariota’s decision to return is a risky proposition. While a similar choice seems to have worked out for Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd (and Stanford’s Andrew Luck when he came back for his junior campaign in 2011), others, such as USC’s Matt Barkley and Washington’s Jake Locker, have seen their draft stock decline. Particularly given Mariota’s build (6-4, 211 pounds) and style of play, he could be susceptible to injury. However, if he’s able to continue to improve, he has the potential to be the first quarterback taken in the 2015 draft (should he declare after his redshirt junior year).

Earlier this fall, Fox Sports’ Joel Klatt caught up with Mariota, where the quarterback talked about becoming more vocal and his growth as a player.

19 comments
6marK6
6marK6

I hear this guy as a top pick at QB and I think I am taking crazy pills. He cannot throw a football accurately at all. 

duckfan59
duckfan59

....and DuckNation exhaled. If they're still saying that in Jan/Feb I'll be pleased.

Now if DAT and Ifo decide to return.....

GaryBrunner
GaryBrunner

Very smart.  The only winners when players quit school to turn pro are the NFL owners and agents. 

Pewky
Pewky

Take the money and then run - See Murray (UGA) and Mettenberger (LSU).

therednorth1
therednorth1

Not many people can say they've won a national title.  Mariota is on a team that could legitimately challenge for a National Title next season.  He's putting winning first, and that's a good sign.

carjax1202
carjax1202

Good move Mariota!  I just love how these guys at S.I. Just assume he would leave after this year.  Now, if we can just get past that "one" game next year.  GO DUCKS!!

MatHill1
MatHill1

Falling off a bit? Is that why this same publication just six hours ago ranked him as the #2 overall pick if he came out for this draft?

j7apple
j7apple

@ElvisHitler  His upside is down, not up in the draft, that is a fact...But...if he is the real deal. the money will still be there a year from now. 

itsthinking
itsthinking

@ElvisHitler  

Dumb post kid.  Mariota values his education, he even said that he was going to finish and get his degree even after leaving.  College is the best time of your life if he want's to enjoy it and still be able to play football then so be it.  Darron Thomas left early, he isn't doing crap now.

carjax1202
carjax1202

@ElvisHitler No...smart kid.  Unlike some idiot over there at Texas A&M.  You know E.H.  it isn't always about the money...it will be there.  This just proves there are smart athletes out there.  GO DUCKS!!

itsthinking
itsthinking

@MatHill1  

It was just announced this afternoon.  He never said he was going or staying before that.  durrrrrr

 

Dustin3
Dustin3

@itsthinking @ElvisHitler He can make more $$ playing five years in the NFL than he could for the rest of his lifetime combined. Also, he can always go back to school and finish up his degree.

KristianColasacco
KristianColasacco

@carjax1202 @ElvisHitler No, it was a dumb move that you happen to be looking at through the glasses of fanboyism.  He's a top 5 selection at this point and possibly a top 2 or 3 pick.  He can't do anything to significantly improve on that even if he moves up one or two slots.  He can slide way down though.  

Next years draft class is also likely to include Jameis Winston who a lot of scouts are already calling the top overall pick next year.  

You are right though about one thing, Manziel is an idiot.  

JonathanD
JonathanD

@itsthinking @MatHill1 You misread his comment, "itsthinking".  The article claimed that Mariota's stock had dropped a bit following his injury and the 2 losses, and MatHill was pointing out that that isn't the case according to SI itself.