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Cal coach: Mariota a 'bigger, faster, stronger' version of Manziel

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California's Sonny Dykes is the only guy who has coached against both Marcus Mariota and Johnny Manziel, and he gives the edge to Mariota.

"I think he's the best quarterback I've seen in a while," Dykes told bayareanewsgroup.com, also saying "Mariota's a bigger, faster, stronger version (of Manziel)."

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Manziel and Texas A&M beat Dykes and Louisiana Tech 59-57 in 2012, when Manziel won the Heisman. Manziel rolled up 576 yards of offense and accounted for six touchdowns in the shootout. Last season was Dykes' first at Cal, and Mariota and the Ducks drilled the Golden Bears 55-16. Ironically, it was one of Mariota's poorer games, as he had just 147 yards of offense, though he did account for three touchdowns.

Dykes and Cal get another shot at Mariota on Friday night, when they play the Ducks at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. That's the home stadium for the San Francisco 49ers.

Dykes is not looking forward to the task.

"He plays under control; he's not a reckless football player at all," Dykes said. "He manages the game well, but he's one of those players every time he touches the ball, he's capable of scoring.

"He's probably the best player in college football."

Coaches regularly sing the praises of opposing players, and Dykes extolling Mariota's virtues -- even over Manziel -- is not a surprise because he is facing the guy this week. At the same time, there is a lot of truth in what Dykes said.

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Mariota has thrown for 1,957 yards, with 19 TDs and no interceptions, and he also has rushed for 289 yards and five scores this season. Mariota has thrown at least two TD passes in every game this season, and his 19 TD passes are tied for seventh-most nationally. Manziel won the Heisman in 2012, and Mariota is one of the top two contenders for the award this season.

Mariota is considered the better pro prospect: When he comes out, he seems a certainty to go in the top 10; Manziel famously went No. 22 to the Cleveland Browns. Mariota's size certainly trumps Manziel's (Mariota is 6-foot-4 and 219 pounds; Manziel is 6-0 and 210). And Dykes' comment about recklessness has a lot of merit. Both quarterbacks played in versions of the spread. Mariota's career TD-to-interception ratio is 83-to-10; Manziel's was 63-to-22.

Perhaps another reason for Dykes signing Mariota's praises: Cal's defense is horrible, surrendering 525.1 yards per game, and maybe Dykes is hoping Mariota takes it easy on them.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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