Oregon didn't finish their regular season the way the Ducks wanted. But the postseason is off to a flying start.
Oregon announced Tuesday that quarterback Marcus Mariota and center Hroniss Grasu will both return to the Ducks in 2014, putting off the NFL Draft for at least one more season. Both players were namd first-team All-Pac-12 by the league's coaches Monday, with Mariota spending much of this season as the Heisman Trophy favorite.
“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,” Mariota said in a statement. “I look forward to earning my degree next year and to the rest of my career at this great University.”
Mariota, a redshirt sophomore, posted a 30-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio after not throwing a pick for the Ducks' first 10 games. He finished ninth in the FBS in total offense at 332.8 yards per-game, and sixth in quarterback rating at 167.96.
But if Mariota is the centerpiece of the Ducks' high-octane offense, Grasu isn't much less important. The redshirt junior has started for three seasons, is an All-American candidate, and helped pave the way for a Duck average of 6.35 yards-per-carry -- the fourth-best mark in the FBS.
Mariota fell off the Heisman pace late in the season when he began battling injuries and struggled (by his lofty standards) in the Ducks' losses to Stanford and Arizona. But for the season's first half, he was arguably the best quarterback and the best player at any position in the nation -- and his and Grasu's return all-but-guarantees the Ducks will begin 2014 right back in their customary roles as national title challengers.