5 Things Oregon QB Marcus Mariota Must Do to Stay in Heisman Trophy Hunt

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5 Things Marcus Mariota Must Do to Stay In Heisman Trophy Hunt

Mariota
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

The sophomore quarterback out of Honolulu, Hawaii is off to a faster start for the Oregon Ducks than he was last season after beating out incumbent backup Bryan Bennett for the starting job last season. And even without offensive guru Chip Kelly, Marcus Mariota is thriving under former Ducks offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. In his latest performance, the Ducks quarterback threw for 456 yards and four touchdowns, the first time any Ducks quarterback has thrown for more than 400 yards since 2003. So far, Mariota has thrown for 889 yards, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions, and boasts a passer rating of 179.0. He has the Ducks sitting squarely at No. 2 in the AP Poll behind Alabama. Mariota has quickly ascended the list as one of the main Heisman front-runners beside Johnny Manziel and this year's hot freshman quarterback in FSU's Jameis Winston, who has caught the eye of many with his performances against Pittsburgh and Nevada.

The Ducks not only have a legitimate Heisman contender at quarterback, but they are also in the thick of the National Championship race, and they have looked better than ever with Mariota running the offense. This Oregon team, unlike others, will go as far as their sophomore quarterback takes them. Mariota is steadily becoming more than a game manager. Rather, he is steadily becoming a bigger and better playmaker, one that NFL scouts will be watching closely and keeping an eye on, especially if he continues to have as solid a season he’s had in these first three weeks.

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5. Continue to Improve His Pocket Passing

Mariota
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Mariota put on a show against the Tennessee Volunteers in Week 3, and needs to continue improving his passing in this fashion for his Heisman campaign to continue. Mariota is emerging as one of the best dual threats in college football not named Johnny Manziel. Manziel is proving that he can throw from the pocket, and Mariota must do the same. Largely because of their offense, Ducks quarterbacks aren't known for putting up big yards in the passing game, but maybe Mariota's performance in the air calls for a little more of an aerial attack.

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4. Keep Winning Pretty

Mariota
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Mariota's first two victories have been very pretty indeed, leading the Ducks offense by scoring a combined 184 points in the first three weeks. He should continue to do that for the remaining games on the schedule, with the possible exception of three games that could ultimately decide their fate in the Pac-12. Style points will be a good boost for Mariota's Heisman campaign, especially on an offense like Oregon's.

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3. Play to His Strengths

Mariota
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

While Mariota must continue to improve his pocket passing, he does not need to abandon what makes him dangerous as a quarterback: his legs. Mariota, like the majority of Oregon quarterbacks, is dangerous when on the move. Mariota must be careful to not try to do it all with his arm, and continue keeping opposing defenses on their toes. To stay in the Heisman hunt, he must continue to establish himself as a premier dual-threat quarterback, and not just a product of Oregon's offense.

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2. Establish Himself as the Leader of Oregon's Offense

Mariota
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

One thing that Heisman trophy winners have generally established about themselves is that they were all leaders of their respective teams, and Mariota must do the same to stay in the Heisman race. Mariota's leadership qualities will be tested when the Ducks face off against three ranked Pac-12 foes in Washington, UCLA and Stanford. The matchup against Stanford could be potentially telling, especially since the Cardinals have gotten the better of the Ducks in the past few seasons.

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1. Keep Turnovers and Mistakes to a Minimum

Mariota
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

To stay in the Heisman race, Mariota needs to make it a goal to keep his interceptions in the single digits. A multiple-interception game is out of the question for the sophomore quarterback to stay in the Heisman race. The Ducks do a pretty good job of holding onto the football and capitalizing on turnovers and big-time opportunities, so Mariota should be fine in that area.

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