EUGENE, Oregon – Marcus Mariota and a few dozen other Oregon Duck football players filed into Autzen stadium for the first official gathering with the press on Monday, just another small moment in the ushering in of 2014 college football. When he opened up about his return to Eugene, his reasoning for passing up millions of dollars and the Sunday spotlight was a bigger reason.
“I wanted to come back and get my degree. Come back and enjoy another year of college with the guys and just kind of experience college for another year. That whole unfinished business didn’t play a factor into why I came back,” Mariota said.
Head coach Mark Helfrich praised his starting quarterback’s decision to dawn the green and yellow another year.
“If a guy’s that kind of teammate, that kind of person, guys take notice,” Helfrich said.
Helfrich also said the return of other veteran players like Hronnis Grasu spoke volumes.
“I think a point of pride that all those guys are back and want to leave on their terms, so to speak.”
Among the many questions thrown at players during Monday morning’s media day, did the Ducks rely too much on Mariota in 2013? One player admitted that.
“Too many times we were relying on Marcus, especially in the Arizona game or Stanford. we were relying on Marcus to make big plays and that shouldn’t ever happen again. A lot of that comes down on the offensive line We just gotta take the slack off his shoulders,” Grasu said.
Offensive lineman Tyler Johnstone, who was cleared to play after tearing his ACL in last year’s Alamo Bowl against Texas, says there will be a positive change in the return of Mariota and other veteran players.
“We’re running on all cylinders. We have Marcus, we have Byron Marshall, Lowe, you know, all those guys in the receiving corp. And then we have all 5 guys in the offensive line com,ing back It’s just all that confidence, all that comfortability with playing with each other a couple years now,” Johnstone said.
Oregon opens its season August 31st against South Dakota.