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Mariota returning to Oregon; will UCLA's Hundley follow suit?

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

Marcus Mariota seemsd to be running toward the Heisman until two late losses. (USATSI)
Marcus Mariota seemsd to be running toward the Heisman until two late losses. (USATSI)

Two of Oregon's top underclassmen announced Tuesday that they will be returning to Eugene for another season of college football.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota and redshirt junior center Hronnis Grassu made the joint announcement through the university.

“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, a two-time All-Pac-12 pick after each of his two starting seasons with the Ducks, was viewed as a potential first-round pick. He completed 227 of 360 passes (63.1 percent) for 3,412 yards and 30 touchdowns as a sophomore, with his 3,994 yards of total offense setting a single-season school record.

Grassu, also recognized as an all-conference center for the second consecutive year, was regarded as one of the nation's best center prospects and a potential day two draft selection.

Each possesses remarkable athleticism for their respective positions but struggled in high-profile matchups against physical opponents, most notably the Stanford Cardinal. After starring early in the year, Mariota, in particular, struggled down the stretch as a nagging knee injury robbed him of his mobility and exposed his inconsistent accuracy.

Mariota's decision could have a ripple effect on other underclassmen quarterbacks considering an early jump to the NFL. Fellow redshirt sophomore quarterbacks Brett Hundley (UCLA) and Kevin Hogan (Stanford) are also highly regarded in the scouting community. When put on the spot on national television by head coach Jim Mora following the Bruins' impressive win over USC last weekend, Hundley refused to commit to returning for another season at the collegiate level.

For all of the breaking underclassmen news, keep your eyes on NFLDraftScout.com's Underclassmen Tracker, which notes the third and fourth-year players who have announced their intentions to give up collegiate eligibility and enter the 2014 NFL draft.

Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to officially enter the 2014 NFL draft.

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