Suppose one of the recruiting websites had a scoop, and reported that the Oregon Duck coaches, who are out on the recruiting trail this week, flipped the commitment of two five-star players, the number one quarterback and #1 offensive lineman in the country.
The message boards would go crazy. College football fans go nuts over up-and-coming talent, and somehow the new guy coming in is always projected as the savior and immediate future of the program.
Bro Code: Teammates and close friends, the surprise early announcement by Hroniss Grasu that they were passing up the NFL Draft to return to Oregon next year ignites new optimism and possibilities for the Oregon program (Don Ryan, AP photo).
Except, yesterday the news went one better. When Marcus Mariota and Hroniss Grasu announced they were returning for the 2014 season, the Ducks got back two proven stars, players who were projected #1 in the draft at their positions, all-conference selections for the last two years.
Both si.com and cbssports.com projected Mariota as the #2 selection in this spring's NFL draft, a pick that would have afforded him a contract in excess of twenty million dollars.
The 6-3, 297-lb. Grasu is a 3-year starter, the acknowledged leader of the Oregon offensive line, the one who quarterbacks the offensive front, responsible for line calls and blocking assignments with split-second decisiveness. He's a team leader, trusted and respected throughout the program, twice picked by his teammates as the winner of the Todd Doxey Award.
Mariota is the most productive quarterback in school history, 62 td passes and 14 rushing with a game to play in second season. Already he is 22-3 as a starter, the record Joey Harrington achieved after four full seasons as a Duck. Harrington has gone on record on several occasions declaring the 6-4, 210-lb. Hawaiian as the best Oregon quarterback ever.
Now he'll have another year to prove it, and he's likely to smash every record in the Webfoot media guide.
Far more importantly, the declaration by these two key team leaders sets the Ducks up for another run at an excellent season in 2014. With one master stroke the offense becomes the most complete, dangerous, deep, formidable units they have ever had. Fans are talking about a backfield that features Byron Marshall, Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman. Bralon Addison and Keanon Lowe are back to anchor the receiver corps with a bevy of talented underclassmen, including Jalen Brown, the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year last season, twice a 1000-yard receiver for a squad that won a state championship year. Two three-year starters, Grasu and Jake Fisher, return on the offensive line. Tyler Johnstone has 25 starts at left tackle. Cameron Hunt and Hamani Stevens got valuable experience at the guard spots, 18 more spots between them. New recruit Tyrell Crosby will challenge for immediate impact.
All these weapons, with a healthy Mariota at the helm.
The decision also gives the Ducks an immediate boost in focus and confidence for the bowl game and next year. By declaring their love and loyalty to the Oregon program and their teammates, they have cemented themselves as the leaders and pacesetters for the 2014 team, and they will command tremendous respect as they lead bowl preparation, off season workouts and spring practice.
They will continue to be difference-makers, not just for their exceptional talent, but their character and leadership as well.
There simply aren't any high school recruits in the country who will have more impact on a program than these two will in the coming year.
It's simply the best Christmas present that the Oregon coaches, team and fans could possibly have wished for. It puts this year's bowl game in an entirely different light. A few weeks ago, skeptics were talking about this being the end of the Ducks recent run of success. Now, it looks like a new beginning.
HUGE for the Ducks. Now if we somehow get IFO (doubtful) and DAT (likely IMO) then the Ducks are bringing it home next year.
Great news. Now if DeAnthony can show the same smarts and stick around. With his lack of size for the NFL the best he can hope for is being a return man who gets half a dozen touches per game. He should enjoy all the playing time he'll get in college before walking the sidelines in the NFL.
On another note: I'm all for the Fast and Furious playing style we have, but we learned this year that we need some SEC-type gorillas on the line to open and plug holes. Let the rest of the team fly all over the field, but we need to beef up that line.
I'll post this in chunks because it's too large for one post. - Jeff
Grasu and Mariota just walked away from more money than all of us combined will ever make in our entire lives. We probably won't even earn the taxes they would have paid in their first season in the pros. There is a life lesson in this, something to reflect upon in our daily lives.
Not to take away from an excellent article, but they made a statement that goes deeper and deserves more than "wow, the Ducks will really be good next year!"
James Miles once noted that you can tell a lot about the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. Mariota and Grasu need nothing more from this team and its coaching staff. There is no longer a need for loyalty to the university, nor towards you and I. Thus, their decision was based upon something else, and that something else should speak to all of us.
I laughed out loud when I read Brett McMurphy of ESPN's tweet when he found out Marcus was staying. It was something along the lines of "You can't Hide from the Jaguars forever Marcus" haha
Honestly I pray he doesn't go to Jacksonville.. That'd be awful. Haha
I think DAT will probably go. Should he get picked up by a coach with the smarts to use him, it could be scary. Let him live in the slot for Drew Brees or Tom Brady and DAT goes from College question mark to certified high light maker in the pros. But if he goes to the rams, and they want to hand the ball of to him between the tackles, well it was fun watching DAT while he was still alive. Look at what the rams have done to Tavon Austin. He could be even more Dynamic if they'd use him correctly.
I think Ifo goes too.. Thats just my guess. He's NFL ready. Teams need Corners. And he's the best one in the country. He tackles great and is physical in coverage. Everything you would want in a corner. If the Seahawks somehow get him.. Well All bets are off that an opposing team completes another pass ever again while Richard Sherman, Walter Thurmond, Brandon Browner, and Earl Thomas are there.. Yikes.
This is such huge news that I can get off the ledge and climb back inside. There will be some fall out as we have discussed with four current backup QB's plus the incoming Mahalak. Lets see what happens
This is definitely good news. I sensed MM would return, but Grasu is a big bonus and already an established team leader. Marcus can focus on improving his leadership, ball security, maybe add 5-10 more pounds...can't think of anything else. DAT is most likely gone but he can't be thrilled with his season either. With Marshall, Tyner and Rolls Royce, he could own the slot/tazr and really light it up. His family situation may tip the scales to leaving but a degree, a few more pounds and a superlative, injury-free year in space would improve his current stock.
Then there's Helf and his evolution as leader of this team. They say the jump from freshman to sophomore is often the biggest one. With a decent Sark bailing at UW for SC, and who knows now at UW (I'd guess it won't be Mora, his bird in the hand at Ucla is a good gig), I'm much more hopeful for 2014 than I have been lately.
Gotta think the coaches and PSA's they're visiting are feeling just Ducky right about now.
MM should be the number one Heisman candidate to open the 2014 campaign. Oregon will receive a huge ratings boost to open the season with the return of the dynamic duo. The NC is a very real possibility, with this news. Now, if we can amp up the performance of the rest of the offensive and defensive lines, there is nothing we couldn't do. MM and HG showed character, class, and smarts in deciding to stay. It can't be easy to turn down twenty million dollars for the love of your team, university and to complete your education. I hope DAT and Ifo decide to stay.
Together, they said without saying that there are things in life more important than money. Before you say "they'll just get it next year, so what's the big deal?" just remember that there are no guarantees in football. They didn't just defer their fortunes to 2015, they tore up a winning lottery ticket and threw it in the trash.
No, their decision was entirely reflective of the character and integrity they've displayed since coming to the UofO. Mariota has always talked about the importance of following through, of loyalty to committment, and the importance of reaching his goals in life. Grasu about family values, character, and honesty. Those ideals come from their parents and their upbringing, and it is refreshing to see that money cannot invalidate such worthy qualities in these two men.
While everyone would have given them a pass had they moved on to the next level, deep down we would have admitted to ourselves that character doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, that money really can buy the soul of a man. Because they stayed true to their words, Mariota and Grasu have given us all a reason to have courage when faced with adversity in our more ordinary lives.
In a world of hypocrites and charlatans, it's nice to know that there are still people who can be held up as examples of doing the right thing for the right reasons. We need our heroes, now more than ever.
@Brian Mahuna DAT is very likely to go, and if Ifo does, he's likely to be a Top 20 pick. Thomas' stock has fallen to the point that he's no longer in guaranteed money territory. His best option in terms of getting drafted higher might be to return and play receiver and kick returner or even cornerback and kick returner.
@sozeduck I am not so sure about insurance. The premiums would be enormous. Who would be coming out of pocket for this? I do not think this approach is easy.
@sozeduck I didn't say they were recruited. I said their return has significantly more impact than landing two top recruits, because they are both proven, elite players. Arriving at this decision shows a lot of character and foresight on their parts, insurance or no.
@rgyle Tremendous opportunity for the Oregon team and these two players. They can have a great college experience and refine their games. All indications are that DAT is gone but who knows. Indirectly this is a great endorsement for Helfrich and his staff. Mariota and Grasu wouldn't be returning if they didn't have a lot of belief in their coaches and teammates, as they said as much.
@duckified BE interesting to see how those other decisions play out. Word is DAT is gone after the bowl, but we'll see.
@sozeduck @RLWirtz You cant place the blame for a non contact injury on size.. If that were the case Iman Shumpert and Derrick Rose, two guys in the NBA that are not considered small by any stretch, would be thought of in that way because they had non contact ACL tears.
Players roll their ankles all the time. I'm 6'8 and I've done it 129050938 times. It wasnt because I was too small. If he broke his sternum getting crushed by some LB then I'd be a little more critical of his size. But saying he's too small for rolling his ankle and missing games with an ankle sprain is pretty ridiculous.
@zduckfan Nice to know Marcus and Hroniss have other priorities than the moolah and fame. In 2015, Marcus may go #1 - to the Jags, Browns, or the like. Or, heaven forbid, drop to the mid/late first round, landing on a better team and learning the ropes from their starter for a year or two - and still get a nice paycheck, with a much bigger down the road as the starter on a good team, in a good organization. Ask Aaron Rogers (and many others) how nicely that has worked out.
MM and HG, integrity personified.
Some fun facts on things insured by Lloyds of London:
In 1957, world-famous food critic Egon Ronay wrote and published the first edition of the Egon Ronay Guide to British Eateries. Because his endorsement could make or break a restaurant, Ronay insured his taste buds for $400,000.
In the 1940s, executives at 20th Century Fox had the legs of actress Betty Grable insured for $1 million each. After taking out the policies, Grable probably wished she had added a rider to protect her from injury while the insurance agents fought over who would inspect her when making a claim.
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bruce Springsteen is known to his fans as "The Boss," but Springsteen knows that he could be demoted to part-time status with one case of laryngitis. That's why in the 1980s he insured his famous gravelly voice for $6 million. Rod Stewart has also insured his throat and Bob Dylan his vocal cords to protect themselves from that inevitable day when they stop blowin' in the wind.
I think MM and HG deciding to stay is playing a role in whether DAT and Ifo leave. They might be able to see the possibilities for next year which could improve both of their draft rankings substantially after a no loss season in 2014. Next year has the very real possibility of being the best year in Oregon football history, maybe they would like to be a part of it.
@duckified Thanks for the link. Good story by Klatt.
@rgyle @zduckfan Unfortunately whenever Mariota declares he's highly likely to be selected by a bad team, but yes, the ideal situation would be to serve an apprenticeship in a solid organization with a veteran quarterback, the heir apparent to Peyton Manning, for instance. How much longer are Brady, Brees and Manning likely to play? Robert Griffin III could use a backup also.
@SonomaDuck @Dale Newton @sozeduck I think in these cases the policy can be written against future earnings. (I am far from an expert on financial matters). Lloyd's gets a cut of Mariota's contract if he's uninjured. They pay him if he suffers a career-ending or career-limiting injury. I'll try to research for more details.
The article is pretty clearly written. It compares the IMPACT of their decision to the REACTION that would be created by major recruiting news, to illustrate how important this decision was for the Oregon program. The coaches were never credited for their decision in any way, although both players did express how much love and respect they had for their teammates and coaches.
@Dale Newton @zduckfan @duckified Of the 4 players mentioned I could see the least advantage in DAT staying. He really can't improve on his game much. His game is dependent on his natural skills, cutting and speed. He won't ever be drafted as a RB so honing that skill isn't necessary. MM, Grasu and Ifo could still develop better skills. If all 4 returned I would have to take the notion of making the playoffs and getting to the NC game a reality. Without Ifo I'm not sure. MM and Grasu coming back is a huge boost for the offense, but Ifo leaving would be another blow to the defense. The same as when Clay and Alonzo left. It's always hard to replace superstars.
@duckified @Dale Newton With Mariota and Grasu staying, I'm beginning to think it is impossible that DAT and Ifo can leave with their dignity intact. That's what leadership does to men. It makes them examine their own motives, their own character, and leads them down paths they wouldn't ordinarily take.
DAT stays, Ifo probably goes.