Some things just always seem to be connected with other items. Items such as peanut butter and jelly, cheese and crackers, the University of Oregon‘s offense and speed, Marcus Mariota and the Heisman and golf with yoga. Wait a minute, golf and yoga? All the other things go together, but what do golf and yoga equal? The answer is Mariota’s fall semester class schedule at Oregon.
Before you jump on the kid for “abusing the NCAA system,” let’s remember what he has accomplished in the classroom and how good guys like him are great role models for young college football fans. The Heisman candidate and general science major received his college degree this past May from Oregon. We know everything at Oregon happens fast, so naturally three years is all it took for the Hawaiian native to graduate. It was reported last January that Mariota had a 3.15 GPA at Oregon while taking over 20 credit hours of science classes. To further prove his academic excellence, he also had a 3.75 GPA coming out of high school, according to rivals.com.
Watching Oregon’s offense in recent years is like watching a magnificent theatre performance at the highest level. A theatre performance that operates at 100 miles per hour with the director also starring as the lead actor. The director/performer for Oregon is Mariota. It takes a smart director to run this offense. As Mariota told Pac-12 Network analyst Rick Neuheisel this offseason, “[T]here’s not one play in this offense where the quarterback doesn’t have to make a decision.”
On one given read option play, Mariota will need to make a call that tells which way for the offensive lineman to slide after the snap, then decide if the unblocked player is coming up the field or down the line. If the defender is coming down the line, Mariota will fake it to the running back and keep the ball. The play is not done yet, though. As Mariota begins to accelerate to his seemingly cheetah like speed around the edge, he looks downfield at his receivers. Is the defender staying with the receiver or is he keying on the quarterback? If the defender stays with the receiver, Mariota tucks and runs. As soon as the whistle is blown, he is yelling at everyone to get lined up and do it all over again.
Guys like these are great for college football. Jameis Winston can’t even remember if he paid for his crab legs or not. I don’t think he could graduate in three years and run this offense. Three out of the last four Heisman winners have been clouded in controversy related to off-the-field issues. Last year’s winner was involved in a sexual assault case that loomed over Florida State University‘s success all season.
The 2012 Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M University, was suspended briefly and involved in an investigation regarding accepting money for signing autographs. The 2010 winner from Auburn University, Cam Newton, was involved in a season-long investigation after it was proven that his father made plans to accept cash if his son would transfer to Mississippi State University. We also can’t forget about Newton’s stint at University of Florida where he was kicked out of school after cheating on a test and stealing a laptop.
It has been a trying year for the NCAA, where it faced constant criticism, unions and lawsuits questioning the bureaucracy, but Mariota is a great ambassador for college athletics. This article didn’t need to mention all of his on the field statistics, because everyone knows what Mariota does on the field is good enough for him to be a top 2014 Heisman candidate alongside last year’s winner, Winston. What he does in the classroom, however, is what separates him from his peers. If Mariota has a career-ending injury this year, it will be an incredibly tragic event. Having a general science degree from Oregon, however, gives him a much better life after football.
Matt Heinz is a Pac-12 football writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on twitter @MattHeinz_Rant.